The Origins Masks

The Origins Masks are well-known and well-loved in the blogging world and it's easy to get sucked into the hype, but are they really worth the money?

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts folder for ages. It took me a long time to actually write this post because I feel that I'm really in the minority of opinions when it comes to these particular masks. Then again, this is my blog and the purpose of this blog is to share what I think, so I'm just going to dive right into this and say that I'm not a big fan.

I've probably made it quite clear that I'm a big face mask girl. The Origins masks seem to be recommended by almost every beauty blogger when they talk about their top face mask picks, but these masks and I just don't seem to get along. There is one stand out product for me out of these four masks though, and that is the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask. This is a typical bentonite+kaolin combination deep cleansing clay mask, and I think those two ingredients probably play more of a role than the charcoal powder, which is much more far down the ingredients list. I find that it really is deep cleansing and does help to clear out my pores (blackheads) as well as help shrink blemishes. I also like that while it is deep cleansing, it's not stripping, so my skin doesn't feel tight at all after I wash it off. I wouldn't say that it's better than the other clay mask options in my skincare drawer, but it is a good one, though I do think there are cheaper alternatives out there.

The two hydrating mask offerings from Origins are the Drink Up 10 Minute Mask and the Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask. These two are very similar products. They are both cream masks that hydrate with emollient oils. While the sort of peaches and cream scent is pleasant, these masks really are incredibly fragranced, which can cause irritation to the skin. In addition, they contain other irritants such as lavender oil and camphor oil. For me personally, I could really see the irritation on my skin after using these products, and it's rare that a product is so irritating I see immediate consequences. After I use these two masks, my skin is always visibly red and just feels uncomfortable, which usually results in breakouts later on. I don't find the 10 Minute Mask to be any more hydrating than the Intensive Overnight Mask, because I don't find either of them to be hydrating really. They kind of just feel like a creamy moisturizer that I put on and wash off, with no results. Frankly, I would not even bother with these products, as there are much more effective hydrating mask options on the market.

The Mega Mushroom Skin Relief Mask is one that I really had high hopes for. The sales associate that sold me this product was extremely convincing, and promised me that her sister - who also has sensitive, acne prone skin - saw fantastic results with this range. I actually quite like the serum from the same range, but not so much this mask. Again, another cream mask, but this one is supposed to reduce redness and reactivity. My skin is easily sensitized and irritated, so this would have been perfect for me, if only it worked. For me, this mask doesn't do anything for redness or irritation. Like the hydrating masks, there are some problematic ingredients in here that are actually irritants, so I suffered the same uncomfortable feeling and broke out shortly afterwards. It really is quite frustrating when a product that's supposed to calm my skin actually does the opposite.

It's easy to get sucked into blogger hype for certain products, but it's also important to admit to ourselves when those products just don't work out for us. I sometimes find myself trying to persuade myself that I like a product just because everyone else loves it, even though I really don't. That being said, these masks may work fantastically for you, in which case, you should continue to use them by all means. For those who haven't tried these masks yet, you should still give them a go if you really are curious, but my advice would be to look for better options. Keep a lookout on my blog as I post about my favourite face masks all the time.

What do you think about the Origins masks?


The Shower Moisture Duo

The shower may not be the place that comes to mind when you think of moisturizing the body, but if you're like me in the sense that you're too lazy to properly rub it body lotion everyday, then every bit of extra moisture that you get in the shower counts. The market has really been catering to the lotion-lazy club as of late, and there are so many body washes and etc that claim to boost moisture. Here are my two picks for some serious shower moisture action.

 The Dove Deep Moiture Nourishing Body Wash is my go-to body wash because it doesn't strip my skin at all, and actually does provide some much needed moisture. It contains nourishing plant oils such as soybean oil and sunflower seed oil, but doesn't leave any kind of greasy residue. It feels very gentle on the skin, and has a nice fresh scent to it. I like to lather up this body wash with any old loofah. It really works up into a dense, sort of creamy foam, which does a great job at cleaning my body, but also leaves my skin feeling so smooth.

To further amp up in moisture, I've been using the Lush Ro's Argan Body Conditioner. You basically use this body conditioner as you would a hair conditioner. After I wash my body with the Dove body wash, I turn off the shower head, scoop some dollops of this body conditioner out of the pot, and rub it all over my wet body, really working it into the dry bits. The key to this product is that when you go to rinse it off, you really have to make it a quick rinse. Like, as quick as you can make it, or you will just be washing all  that moisture down the drain. The first time I tried this product, I got a little bit too comfortable in the warm water when rinsing off, and didn't see any effect afterwards. If you make it a quick rinse and lightly pat dry with a towel, your skin will feel smooth and soft, but with no oily residue left behind. I have to say though, I'm really not a fan of the scent, as it's just way too rich for me. But the scent doesn't really linger, so I just deal with it, and I believe Lush is coming out with a new tropical scented body conditioner soon, so be sure to check that out. Also, you have to use quite a bit of product to cover your whole body, and for $33, this is not really a large pot. I'm sure there are more cost effective drugstore versions of a body conditioner, so be sure to let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions.

What are you favourite shower moisture products?


Makeup Menu #2

Summer is officially here, and this month's Makeup Menu is all about lightweight, barely-there makeup. When the weather starts to get warm, you really don't want any heavy base makeup, because let me tell you, that does not go well with the excess oil and sweat that's partying it up on your face. I've been absolutely loving the Stila CC Color Correcting Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 20, which I reviewed here. I really didn't expect this to work as well as it does. It doesn't provide much coverage, but does a great job at correcting redness and blurring imperfections. This CC cream does apply well with fingers, but I like to really buff it in with a Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, as it just applies the product so evenly and does it in seconds. It leaves a very skin-like, natural finish on the skin, and also provides so much radiance, and who doesn't love dewy, glowy skin in the summer? I top it off with a little bit of concealer just to cover up any breakouts or acne scars, a bit of powder down the t-zone, and I basically look like I woke up with flawless skin, which is a success in all my books.

For brows, the Benefit Gimme Brow is the only thing I've used all month. It's a tinted brow gel that basically makes your brow hairs look thicker than they actually are, so you're left with naturally full brows. This product really only works if you already have reasonably full brows and you're satisfied with your natural brow shape. I have pretty full brows naturally thanks to my dad (I'm pretty sure his brow hairs are like an inch long each), so I can get away with just brushing two coats of this stuff through all the hairs. Those with thinner brows, you'll probably want to skip this product and stick with the brow powder or pencils instead. This product can get a little bit messy though, as it's very easy to accidentally dot the product in areas where you don't want it, so keep some cotton buds handy.

On my cheeks, I like to pop a little bit of Tarte Cheek Stain in Flush on the tops of my cheek bones. I like to apply blush to my cheek bones because it helps to lift my face, and I also feel like applying blush to my cheeks just accentuates all the acne scars that I try to hide. When I first swatched the Tarte Cheek Stains, I thought the texture was way too sheer and jelly-like for my liking, but it actually works very well. I've never really seen anything else like it, but it's kind of like a gel-cream blush in a twist-up stick, which sounds so strange but is actually kind of genius. I just run my finger across the top of the stick a few times to distribute pigment, and then tap my finger onto my cheek bones. It can apply sheer, but you can definitely build up colour. The gel-cream formula makes the product so lightweight, you can't feel it at all. Flush is described as a sheer berry, but on my cheeks, it's a really pretty rosy pink.

I've skipped eye makeup since I wear glasses most days, and my big black frames do a great job on their own of pulling attention. The key to the glasses makeup look is to amp it up with lip colour. I'm a big fan of the Fresh Sugar tinted lip balms, and the newly released Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Tulip quickly made it into my daily makeup routine. Tulip is described as a sheer hot pink tint, which I would agree with, but it also has a berry element to it. It's definitely more bold than a nude or peachy pink lip, but still natural. These lip balms are my favourites out of all of the tinted lip balms out there, as they are just so incredibly moisturizing and comfortable to wear. They really feel just like a lip balm. Plus, the signature citrus candy scent is to die for.

What are your summer makeup picks?


A Standout Spot Treatment, Finally!

I feel like spot treatments are a category of skincare that I'm just consistently underwhelmed by. Most products maybe shorten the healing time of a blemish from 7 days to 5 days or something like that, but is it really worth the effort? We're all busy people in a busy world and I am always looking for that spot treatment that will give me instant results, and this week, I think I've finally found it.

To be honest, I really didn't expect the DermaMed Acne Prone Skin Gel to work as well as it does. I live near an organic grocery store, so I picked this little pot up on a whim. DermaMed is a natural skincare brand, and the ingredients list for this product is a very short and simple list. I'll list them down below:

Ingredients: Water, aloe vera gel, viola tricolor extract, tea tree essential oil, rose hip oil, vitamins A and E, grapefruit seed extract (natural preservative)

Well isn't that just about the shortest ingredients list for a skincare product ever. I wanted to give this product a try because it's a blend of anti-inflammatory(tea tree), soothing/redness reducing (aloe vera gel), and healing (rose hip oil and vitamin E) ingredients, so it's helping skin heal and also reducing any scarring that might occur.

The product comes in an opaque jar and has a light cream texture that smells, unsurprisingly, of tea tree oil. I was going through a pretty bad bout of breakouts all over my cheeks when I first tried it. Immediately, I noticed a significant decrease in redness on all the areas I applied it to, which I've never really seen happen before. The product does absorb and dry, which I like because it won't rub onto my pillows at night, so I kept reapplying throughout the night just for good measure. The next morning when I washed my face, I noticed that all of my blemishes had significantly decreased in size and redness. The small ones basically vanished overnight. I also had a huge red lump that had come to a head the previous night (TMI?), so I popped it and applied this cream on top, and it was almost completely gone as well.

 Honestly, this is probably the first time a spot treatment has given me immediate results, and I'm so impressed. And believe me, I've tried my fair share of spot treatments throughout the years. Hopefully it will continue to give me good results. If you also struggle with finding an effective spot treatment, definitely give this little gem a try!


Lush Haul

Ah yes, who doesn't love a little bit of Lush? I was given the Lush catalogue recently and saw a few products in there that I just could not resist. It was really interesting to read up on the Lush philosophy of "fresh" skincare without preservatives, as well as the charities that Lush supports with the sale of certain products.

First and foremost, what would a Lush haul be without a bath product? I picked up the A French Kiss Bubble Bar, which smells beautifully of lavender. When crumbled under the water tap and properly bubbled up though, it smells quite strongly of rosemary and I couldn't help thinking of preparations for chicken dinner while I sat there in the tub. Maybe not the best contender for a romantic evening, but the bubbles were proper fun. I usually cut up the bubble bars into three pieces, so each one can last me three baths. Still not the most cost effective bath product out there, but at least I'm not dropping nearly $10 on a bath.

Lush is one of the more mainstream natural skincare brands out there, and while natural can be a good thing, it definitely compromises convenience in some of Lush's products. I picked up the Aqua Marina Cleanser, which is supposed to be good for irritated, sensitive skin. Calamine takes down redness while aloe vera gel soothes the skin. Kaolin helps draw out impurities in the pores, and the seaweed wrapped around each chunk of cleanser hopefully adds some vitamins to the skin as well. The product sounds great in theory, but when I actually tried to use it, I just did not get on with it. It comes in soft chunks that you're supposed to sort of melt down into a milk with a bit of water in your palm, but I found this very hard to do, and I ended up spilling a lot of the product in the process. It didn't do a whole lot in terms of soothing breakouts, and overall is just too much of a faff for me to put up with. I get that being preservative-free is a big thing now, but the inclusion of fragrance is even more problematic than parabens. While there is no conclusive research that topical applications of parabens has any side effects (the horror stories are based on ingestion of parabens), fragrance is consistently shown to cause irritation on the skin. I suppose people like their products to smell good, but honestly this product smells pretty bizarre.

One thing I really wanted to pick up as the Ultrabalm Body Balm. It's a really thick balm that only consists of three ingredients: jojoba oil, candelila wax, and rose wax. It's very emollient and moisturizing, and I like to apply it to any dry patches on my body, such as my knees, elbows, and heels. I've seen lots of reviews saying it works well as a lip balm too, but it does smell kind of funny, so I haven't taken that leap yet. Another product to help with dry, flaky skin is the Stepping Stone Foot Scrub. I tend to neglect taking care of my feet, so I wanted something to help soften the skin and get rid of the flaky bits. This scrub is a pumice based bar that also contains moisturizing oils. The key here is to not get the actual scrub bar wet. Just wet your feet, and scrub the dry bar over the skin. It's not a bad product, and it did help get rid of the really rough patches, but I did hope for a bit more of a softening effect. I think an actual pumice stone might be easier to use and just as effective.

I also received a small sample of the Mask of Magnamity, which can be used as a deep cleansing face wash or mask. It contains the usual combination of bentonite and kaolin found in many clay masks, as well as honey, which is one of my favourite skincare ingredients due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and nourishing properties. It also contains ground aduki beans to give you a bit of exfoliation when washing off. I haven't tried this mask yet, because I'm a bit on the fence about the inclusion of peppermint oil, which is an irritant to the skin and I certainly have found it irritating in the past. I probably will give it a go at some point anyway, and we'll see how I get on with it.

What are your Lush favourites?


An Unlikely Love Affair: Marchesa Parfum d'Extase

Although I've always been fascinated with the art of creating perfume, I am somehow extraordinarily picky when it comes to scents. There's always something wrong. Too sweet. Too rich. Too fruity. Too creamy. Too powdery. Etc etc etc. In fact, I never really wore perfume simply because I couldn't find a single one I liked.

Until now that is.

The Marchesa Parfum d'Extase whisked my little heart away at first glance with its beautiful glass and crystal packaging, and when I smelled it, I knew it was the one. The perfume is said to be inspired by the brand Marchesa's collection of dresses, which are all so dreamy. The perfume is definitely a floral scent, the strongest notes being iris and jasmine. Jasmine and rose are very romantic scents, but I think the iris and lotus give the perfume a very clean edge as well. However, the thing that sets this perfume over all the other floral perfumes out on the market is that this perfume has the perfect balance of floral notes and green notes - possibly from the young violet leaves? - which takes away the sweetness and powdery quality that floral scents can often have and makes it smell oh so fresh.

I wouldn't describe this perfume as being a sexy fragrance, but there's something so effortlessly elegant and chic about it. Sephora describes this scent as being feminine and empowered, and I think it really is just that. For me, this fragrance evokes the image of the modern business woman: confident, intelligent; modern yet classic, modest yet powerful; someone who is perhaps not the strongest voice in the room, but who is always in control of the situation; and someone who is always dressed to perfection.

Now that I've perhaps thoroughly confused you with all my description, I have to say that you really have to smell Marchesa yourself to understand. The only downside to this fragrance is that it really isn't very long lasting, maybe a few hours at best, which is really such a disappointment because the middle notes and base notes of the fragrance get lost as it fades. I imagine it would fade to a more sensual, musky scent, which to be honest I wouldn't know if I'd like, so maybe it's a good thing. Who knows. Just keep a rollerball in your handbag and reapply throughout the day.

Have you tried Marchesa Parfum d'Extase?


A Love and a Shrug #2: CC Cream Edition

CC Creams have been out on the market for a while now but have just never really caught my interest. I love Korean BB creams for their high coverage yet skin-like finish, but CC creams didn't seem like they would have enough coverage for me. This week, I decided to give CC creams a go and see what the trend is all about. In the end, one product came out on top, while the other fell very short.

These CC products are meant to colour correct without giving coverage, which - ideally - would mean that they minimize hyperpigmentation, redness, and dullness while maintaining a very lightweight skin-like finish. Both of these products come out in a green base with colour particles inside that are meant to adjust to your skin when blended in. However, the Biotherm Aquasource CC Gel just did not deliver the results I was looking for. I mentioned last week that I am a huge fan of the Biotherm Aquasource Deep Hydration Replenishing Gel moisturizer, which is why I thought the Aquasource CC Gel would be a good product, but there are a few reasons why I find it problematic. As the name would suggest, the product comes in a very light gel consistency, but a lot of product has to be applied before any effect can be seen. Although it feels and smells like the Aquasource moisturizer, the CC Gel dries sort of tacky and sticky, and feels actually quite heavy over the skin. Because of the gel consistency, the product can really only be applied with fingers, but it takes quite a bit of effort to blend in as the product tends to have a streaky look, which makes it difficult to use in the morning when I'm in a rush to get out the door. Even after all the effort of blending it in, the product doesn't really have any effect. I know it's supposed to be a light coverage product, but I at least hope to see some results. It also just felt uncomfortable on the skin, so I had to pass on this product.

The Stila CC Color Correcting Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 20 is everything that I hoped the Biotherm Aquasource CC Gel would be. The product claims to provide sheer to medium buildable coverage, but it's definitely a light coverage at best. This one comes in a cream base rather than a gel. The first time I tried to use this product, I applied it with a beauty blender sponge and saw absolutely no results. After a bit of trial and error, I find that fingers work well, but my favourite way to apply is with a buffing brush. I use the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, dot the CC cream all over my face, and really go to town with buffing it in.

While it doesn't provide any coverage to the skin, it is really perfecting. It helps to reduce any redness and really brightens the complexion. It definitely has a dewy, glowing finish that is just so perfect for summer. It doesn't do anything for oil control and I find that my nose does start to get a little oily throughout the day, so those with oily skin may want to powder down the t-zone. For those with dry skin, this product is pretty moisturizing as well. Although it doesn't stand a chance against covering hyperpigmentation, it does make them slightly less noticeable, and a little bit of concealer takes care of that easily. This product pretty much looks and feels like skin, and I don't feel it on my face at all, which I love. Overall, I think the Stila CC Coloring Correcting Cream is a great option if you are looking for a natural light coverage base for the summer months.

What is your favourite CC product?


In a League of its Own: Biotherm Aquasource

If you are on the hunt for a new summer moisturizer, look no further than the Biotherm Aquasource Deep Hydration Replenishing Gel. It's really been a while since I've liked a moisturizer enough to finish the whole tub, but I've already completely used up one tub of Biotherm Aquasource, bought a new one, and bought a back up, just in case. In case you can't tell, I've got a serious love affair going on with this moisturizer.

I was first introduced to this product by one of my favourite beauty bloggers, Igisele, who has absolutely gorgeous skin. She said that back in her acne-prone days, this moisturizer really saved her face by providing lots of hydration yet not making the skin oily at all. That sounded like just about the perfect thing for my combination, acne-prone skin, and I wonder why it took me so long to finally purchase this product.

As you can see in the picture above, this moisturizer comes as a light green gel. Biotherm is known for using marine algae and plankton ingredients in their skincare, and I personally really love algae ingredients in skincare. We're beginning to see more and more algae ingredients in high-tech brands such as Algenist, and I think that this field definitely has a lot of potential. Somehow, and I don't know how this product does it, I find this moisturizer to be lightweight enough to use in the morning under makeup, yet hydrating enough to use at night, depending on the amount you apply. Once the moisturizer sets and sinks in, my skin always looks visibly more plumped, yet it feels kind of matte to the touch. Over the course of the day, I find that my t-zone gets less oily as well.

This moisturizer is paraben free and mineral oil free. It really calms and soothes my very sensitive skin, and does not break me out at all. The scent of it is pleasantly green (like when perfume has green notes?), and really gives a bit of luxury to the whole experience. While it is perfectly lightweight for the summer, I imagine that this moisturizer will be hydrating enough to use during the cold winter months as well. At $47 for a 50mL tub, this moisturizer lasted me about a month when used both morning and night. It's definitely not a cheap product, but I really like to just go to town with slathering my skin in this, so if you use it a bit more sparingly, I imagine it could last you much longer.


Trialling SPF's

Wearing an SPF product daily is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Exposure to UV rays causes the breakdown of collagen and signs of aging such as wrinkles and sun spots follow suit. However, SPF products are also one of the hardest skincare products to shop for, as many of them have thick, oily textures, unpleasant scents, or leave the infamous white cast on your face. Gross, I know, but with lots of trial and error I have managed to find some SPF products that work for me.

The SPF that I've been reaching for everyday is the L'occitane Immortelle Brightening Shield SPF 40. This is probably the best SPF product I've ever used. It has an incredibly light, liquid texture, so I pump it into the palm of my hand before dotting all over my face. On the skin, it feels no more heavy than a light moisturizer. It's important to use enough product when using SPF or you will not be getting the full SPF 40 protection, so I use about 8 pumps every morning to cover my entire face and neck. It is rather pricey at $60 for 30mL, but SPF is absolutely not something you can use sparingly or that can be "less is more", so I would suggest looking into other options if you are turned off by the price.

This is a physical sunscreen formulated with titanium dioxide, so you are getting broad spectrum protection (which means it will block out both UVA and UVB rays). However, as with all physical sunscreens, it does leave a slight white cast over my face when first applied, but that goes away in a few minutes. Just be sure to wait for it to absorb before applying makeup on top. The scent is similar to the rest of the Immortelle line, a sort of fresh floral scent that isn't too strong. This sunscreen also includes a number of plants oils and extracts to help brighten the skin, including daisy extract. While this could be beneficial, those with sensitive skin may want to do a patch test first, as plant ingredients can often be irritating to the skin. Overall, I think this is a great SPF option, and is the most un-sunscreen-like SPF out of the products I am talking about today.

While we're on the subject of SPF's, I figure I would talk about some other SPF products I've tried. The Amore Pacific Natural Protector SPF 30/PA+++ is a blend of physical and chemical sunscreens. It seems to be only available in the US, but can be found quite easily online through Sephora. While it claims to be oil-free, I still think it feels rather heavy. It is also extremely heavily fragranced, so those with sensitive skin may want to steer clear. The product comes out with a slight pink tint, which helps slightly to even out skin tone but doesn't have any major effects, though it definitely helps cancel out the white cast. Not really a product I would recommend.

The Avene High Protection Mineral Cream SPF 50 was my daily SPF before I discovered the L'occitane offering. This is a physical sunscreen containing both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and provides broad spectrum protection. As with all Avene products, this sunscreen does not contain any fragrance and is a great option for sensitive skin. The product is tinted, so it does not have any white cast and actually really helps to even out the skin. I'm able to skip foundation and use only concealer for my base makeup when wearing this sunscreen. While it blends into my fair skin very well, those with darker skin may want to test it out first. The only complaint I have with this sunscreen is that it is a little bit heavy and oily. While it doesn't cause me to break out at all, I find that my t-zone can get quite oily throughout the day.

The Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth SPF 50+ was a product I really wanted to love, but just didn't work out. This product contains marine algae, fruit cell extracts, and vitamins A, C, and E, to firm and brighten the skin while protecting it, which sounded like an absolutely fantastic idea to me. It is a chemical sunscreen, so no white cast here, and has a pleasant citrus scent. The weird thing about this sunscreen is that it absolutely has to be applied underneath moisturizer. I did not read the directions at first and applied it like a normal sunscreen, and wow, was that a disaster. The sunscreen started to ball up in little white shreds as I tried to massage it into my face, and let me just tell you, that is not a good look. When applied under moisturizer as directed, it's incredibly light and almost undetectable. While it does not ball up as badly, over the course of the day, I still find little white flakes on my face whenever I touched it, so unfortunately, this is a love that could never be. Those who don't wear serums in the morning might have much better luck with this though.

The Shiseido Urban Environment Tinted UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 43 is one of my favourite SPF products, but it is definitely more of a makeup product than it is skincare. It's oil free and actually works very well as a tinted moisturizer. However, my concern with using makeup products as my source of SPF is that I cannot apply as much product without it starting to look heavy. That being said, I do still reach for this product when I'm having a lazy day and can't really be bothered to do my makeup.

What are your SPF favourites?


Hero Products

With all the skincare products that are available to us today, it's often difficult to find the ones that really work. Do you ever have those times when products just don't live up to their claims, and you begin to wonder whether this whole "skincare" thing is really doing anything or if it's just all in your head? I often have these existential crises, but eventually, I come across a product that is so effective and so much excels in its category that it restores all my hope and passion in skincare. These are my Hero Products, and I'm going to share two of them with you today.

The first was an impulse buy that I didn't really have any high hopes for. I'd seen the Jurlique range in Sephora many times, but was always turned off by how small the bottles were and how little amount of product you must be getting for the high price. In actuality, the Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Restorative Treatment Serum houses a pretty standard 30mL amount of product, just without a bunch of excess packaging. As the name would suggest, this serum is targeted towards redness, and boy does it do a good job at that! I apply this serum in the morning before moisturizer, because it really does get rid of all the excess redness in my skin and allow me to apply less makeup on top. Due to the reduced redness, the hyperpigmentation of my acne scars look much less obvious as well. This serum comes out as an amber-coloured gel. I like to apply it quite liberally, so I take 3 pumps over my entire face and neck. The serum is also quite hydrating, and calendula, cucumber, and chamomile extracts soothe sensitive or irritated skin. The only complaint I would have is that there is no way to tell when the product is going to run out, but I have been using it every morning and some nights for about a month now, and it is still going strong. I would definitely recommend this to those who suffer from redness, or anyone looking for an all-around great serum for sensitive skin.

The Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask is really in a category of its own. I'm obsessed with face masks, but don't have anything else quite like it. This mask is targeted towards spots and blemishes, but comes out in a rich cream texture, which most people would probably avoid for acne-prone skin. But trust me, it really works so well. The mask contains manuka honey, which is known for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties. Manuka honey is very effective in treating blemishes - I have a jar of manuka honey from my local organic market that I like to dab directly onto any big, angry spots I get. Whenever I feel like I'm about to have an outbreak of spots, I apply this mask, and it either stops them from erupting or make existing spots go down much faster. It's also very nourishing, so my skin always feels nice and soft after I wash it off.

What are your hero products?


Going Natural With Hair

I'm not a nut about natural beauty by any means. Beauty products from organic brands often irritate my skin due to the presence of essential oils and whatnot, so I happily embrace more chemical formulations. When it comes to hair care though, I've learned that the natural oils in my hair really help to keep it healthy, shiny, and frizz-free. Most shampoos on the market are laden with sulfates, usually one of sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These sulfates cause shampoo to foam and are responsible for that squeaky clean feeling, but also strip the hair of natural oils. Over time, the scalp starts producing more oils to compensate, and we're often left with an oily scalp and are forced to wash more often, which makes the problem even worse. To fix the problem and make my hair healthy again, I decided to make two changes to my hair care routine that have made a world of difference.

1. Wash less often

It seems like a bit of a no-brainer really - less washing will retain more natural oils in the hair - but it is much more easily said than done. Years of using stripping shampoos had caused oil production to go into overdrive, and I could hardly go a day without washing because my hair just felt so greasy and gross. Dry shampoo and hair buns will be your best friend. Using dry shampoos to soak up some of the oils will help your hair retain volume on days of unwash and make it both look and smell more clean. I've found a natural hair powder that works brilliantly, and that is the Lulu Hair Powder. It contains only 6 simple ingredients, so you know you're not using anything that will further damage your scalp. Unlike the more aerosol packaged dry shampoo options, you have to tap this powder into the palm of your hand, rub your palms together, and then massage your palms into the roots of your hair. This hair powder also smells amazingly of lavender, and smelling nice is always an added bonus.

Updo hairstyles such as ponytails and buns can really help to keep you going for those last few days before washing your hair. I personally prefer buns because they're cute, easy to do, and the oils and hair powder left in your hair after a few days of unwash really help to keep the style in place and help make a nice messy, voluminous bun.

2. Use a non-stripping shampoo

It doesn't really make sense to go through all those efforts of not washing if you're just going to strip your hair again every time you wash. I've opted for the Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap because I already had a bottle of it that I use to wash my makeup brushes. It's a soap made from plant oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil, but has a very liquid consistency. It does foam up a little bit when massaged into the hair, but does not strip the hair of natural oils. That's also why it's a popular option for washing makeup brushes, because it doesn't dry out the bristles. Initially when I started using this soap, my hair didn't feel as clean after washing compared to a traditional shampoo and it was a little bit uncomfortable, but once my hair adjusted, I had no problems with it. At night, I try spend a few minutes combing through my hair in order to distribute the oils from the scalp throughout all my hair. My scalp has definitely become less oily, and I'm able to go longer without washing. I used to have to wash my hair every day, but now I can go 3-7 days of unwash depending on how warm it is outside.

On the whole, my hair is feeling more soft and bouncy, and is definitely less dry and frizzy. Because my hair is quite long, I like to still apply a conditioner to the ends of my hair, and I've been loving the Organic Surge 2 Minute Moisture Mask. This is a hair mask made of coconut oil, but I use it as I would a traditional conditioner. I take a generous scoop and smooth it through the mid-lengths to the ends of my hair, wash my face and body in the mean time and do whatever else I have to do in the shower, and then wash off. It's moisturizing while being incredibly lightweight, so it doesn't weigh down the hair at all.

Natural hair care definitely takes a bit of adjusting to, but my hair is healthier and looking better than ever before. What are your natural hair recommendations?


Introducing Japanese Facial Soaps

The word "soap" in skincare has always had me running in the opposite direction screaming at the top of my lungs. It's associated with that very uncomfortable stripped and tight feeling of the skin that comes from the use of regular bar soap or sulfate laden face washes, and I am quite past those days, thank you very much. However, recently I've added bar soaps back into my daily skincare regimen, but in the form of the much more sophisticated Japanese facial soap. Unlike your traditional bar soap, these soaps are infused with moisturizing oils and plant extracts, and leave your skin feeling clean but ever so soft and smooth. Today, I have two options of Japanese facial soaps to share with you, so let's get right on with it.

The first Japanese facial soaps I tried come from Yojiya, a cosmetics company based in Kyoto, Japan, and have been around for over a century. Yojiya is most famous for their aburatorigami oil blotting papers, which I also very much enjoy. Yojiya products are only available in their stores in Japan and some Japanese airports, but I have managed to find some of their products on Ebay. I picked up my pack of facial soaps from one of their Kyoto stores when I was visiting last summer. The pack included the green tea soap (the green one), cherry blossom soap (the pink one), and rice soap (the yellow one).

The green tea soap is my favourite out of the three. It works to control oil production on the face. It is infused with green tea extract, which is amazing for acne-prone skin due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Whenever I use this soap, I see a reduction in redness on my skin, and any spots go away much faster. Green tea extract is also known for its antioxidant properties and has been shown to reduce UV damage on the skin when applied topically. I reserve this facial soap for the warmer months as it can be a tad bit drying during the cold Canadian winters.

The cherry blossom soap is aimed towards brightening the skin and reducing hyperpigmentation. As expected, it is infused with cherry blossom extract, which contains antioxidants, inhibits melanin production (which is what causes hyperpigmentation), and promotes collagen production in the skin. For my sensitive, sensitive skin, brightening products are often irritating, and I find that this soap can sometimes sting my skin a little bit, but I can definitely see immediate brightening results.

The rice soap is a rich, moisturizing soap that I love to use in the winter. Rice is rich in antioxidants and amino acids. It soothes and softens the skin, and can help prevent moisture loss by strengthening the skin's moisture barrier. An all-around hero product really, it's no surprise that rice ingredients are often used in Asian skincare. I sometimes like to use rice water (you know, the water left over from washing rice) to make my own DIY face masks, and my skin is always left so soft, and this soap has the same effect.

The other option of Japanese facial soaps I have for you is actually my favourite out of them all. I picked up the Penelopi Moon Junoa Facial Cleansing Soap from Imomoko (here) last month and have been using it for my morning and evening cleanse ever since. I just can't get enough! The Junoa soap is suitable for all skin types. The red portion of the soap is infused with 19 plant oils and extracts, which include evening primrose oil, licorice root extract, mushroom stem extract, rice oil, honey, and etc, while the moon shape in the centre contains amino acids and proteins that soften and nourish the skin. Can I just say that this soap is such a beauty to look at? It makes me feel a bit like Sailor Moon every time I hold it. The recommended method of using this soap is to foam it up with the included foaming net, spread the foam over your face and neck and massage over the skin, and then leave it on for a minute or a few minutes to use it as a foam mask and allow the ingredients to really nourish the skin, and then wash off. After using this soap for about a month morning and night, my skin is soooooo incredibly soft and smooth. I've also gotten much less breakouts, which I'm not sure is entirely credited to this soap, but I can't recommend it enough.

Have you tried any Japanese facial soaps?