Switching Up My Skincare

For the last year or so I have stuck to the same skincare products, loyally repurchasing the same serum, toner and moisturiser ad nauseam in fear of picking up a new product which could aggravate my skin and cause breakouts or dry patches. And to be honest, I’m not sure why I went back to those products again and again, when they were really nothing special, simply some of the cheapest and easiest on the market. I’d become complacent.

At the start of the year I ran out of a slew of products, and rather than repurchase my tried and tested, I replaced them with all new products. Two months later, here are my thoughts on the products…

First up an inexpensive serum, The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% and Zinc 1% breakout buster. It is designed to regulate sebum, minimise pores, even out skin tone and fight blemishes - all for only £5. I’d have been stupid not to try it for that amount! It can be used morning or evening underneath your moisturiser, though I specifically bought it for morning use thinking the pore minimising abilities would help make my makeup look better. Unfortunately, that is not what it did. 

On application it felt like it left a light film on my skin - if I applied too much it would pill, clearly unable to absorb into my skin; and it also just doesn’t sit well underneath makeup, leaving me looking quite shiny - and not in a ‘lit from within‘ way, in an ‘I look like I’ve got a very thin layer of cellophane on under my foundation‘ type of way. Not exactly what I was after.

I started using it in the evening instead but found that it still just did not sit well underneath other products, causing pilling anytime I applied my night oil over it. Obviously, this is less of an issue at night than in the day, but it doesn’t feel very nice.

This is honestly a product I’ll really struggle to use up, which is such a shame because from other reviews I’ve seen it is incredibly popular and effective for other people. Unlike so many others, I did not see a difference in my pore size, skin tone or blemishes - in fact, I find it actually clogs my pores causing slight milia around my cheeks. It isn’t anything too serious, but still, isn’t that the opposite of what it’s supposed to do? 

All that said, I don’t think I’d necessarily dissuade people from it as it does work for so many other people. I mean, for £5 I think anything is worth trying! It’s just a shame it didn’t work for me!

I thought I’d try the Hydraphase Intense Eye Cream from La Roche-Posay for £10. I liked that it is specifically targeted to moisturise rather than brighten as that is what I most need from an eye cream. 

I would not classify this as a cream however, this is very much an eye gel in my opinion - had I known that beforehand I would not have purchased it. I’m just not that into gels – I don’t find them to be as hydrating as a cream. There is nothing inherently wrong with this one, it hasn’t irritated the skin around my eyes in any way. It just doesn’t feel incredibly moisturising and I have found that my concealer doesn’t apply quite as evenly or smoothly when I use it. I will definitely be looking elsewhere for an eye cream (not a gel!) in the future.

Having tried clarifying toners from both La Roche-Posay and Avene in the past that were too drying and abrasive, I was initially unsure about trying the Eucerin DermoPurifyer Toner. This claims to use salicylic acid (a blemished skincare favourite) to unclog pores and minimise and prevent blemishes - supposedly all without drying out your skin due to its compatibility with acne medication - which is not something I’ve ever seen advertised on other products, so that had me intrigued.

It definitely isn’t drying, unlike the other toners mentioned. I can’t say if it has helped to unclog my pores and prevent blemishes, in part because I have been using other products to help with those issues anyway, but also because I do not see a huge difference after applying this.

I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to repurchase it when it runs out as I could happily try something new. I would be intrigued to try more from the DermoPure range, and I would buy this toner again at a push.

I felt like it was time to take an anti-ageing step in my routine and so decided to add the La Roche-Posay Redermic Retinol. I chose this as my first retinoid in part because of the price (so predictable), as it was on offer for £20 which makes it one of the cheapest on the market. At 0.3% it is also one of the lowest percentage retinol you can get.

If you’re new to retinol the low percentage probably doesn’t seem like a good thing, don’t we normally want larger quantities of good ingredients in our skincare? But it is actually best to start small if you’ve never used one before as it is an incredibly potent ingredient that can cause all sorts of adverse effects if you haven’t built up your skin’s tolerance to it.

I still approached this product with caution despite the low percentage - I did not want red, flaky, spotty skin. For about the first month I used it twice a week, and upon having no reaction to it then upped my usage to three times a week. I don’t know if it was this approach prevented any peeling, or the dreaded purge period, but I can honestly say I didn’t experience any negative reactions to this retinol. Maybe it was the percentage, maybe my skin is just made of sterner stuff - I don’t know! But I would definitely recommend this approach. 

Now, onto the good stuff - did it work? Retinols are basically a do-all product, they help to diminish fine lines, brighten, tighten pores, regulate your skin’s oil production, fight acne, soothe inflammation and re-home kittens and puppies. Ok, the last one isn’t true, but you get the gist, it is supposedly a wonder-worker. Now, I can’t really comment on its anti-ageing abilities because I don’t have a lot to anti-age, but everything else listed is much higher on my ‘concerns’ list. So after two months, honestly, I wouldn’t say it has been a miracle worker. A lot of the benefits I notice after use - smaller pores, smoother skin - only last temporarily, a day, maybe two at most. But that one day will be a great skin day. 

It is possible that I need to use it more often to see more of a lasting effect - a lot of the rave reviews I’ve read for this product mention almost daily use, so perhaps it is time for me to try using it every other day, and see if the improvements stick around. I will say that I don’t think it has done anything to lessen my pre-existing acne scars, but when I did have a hormonal break-out last month it did seem to help shrink the spots somewhat - albeit quite slowly.

I’m glad I picked it up, it is the one item in this post that I have been most pleased with, but I think once I run out I will look for a slightly stronger retinol, and perhaps a much cheaper one!

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A Few First Impressions

I realised I am just at the beginning of quite a few different things, and thought it might be interesting to share my initial thoughts on them. I’ve not consumed enough to give a fully informed review, but you know what they say about first impressions – they tend to stick.

Though inevitably I’ll contradict myself later, after having written this post, when I say my opinion has changed. But that isn’t as catchy a saying – ‘first impressions stick, but also sometimes they won’t because things change, or perhaps you were stupid to decide something is absolute after only an initial impression because sometimes things take time‘.

Anyway, here are my (non-concrete) thoughts on stuff. First up, some skincare.

When I re-ordered my beloved Clinique cleanser, it arrived with a deluxe sample size of the Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-replenishing Hydrator – which is a very long-winded way to say ‘moisturiser‘. As I am trying to use up the beauty products that I have instead of constantly buying new products, when I ran out of my evening Boots Botanics Face Oil, I decided to replace it in my routine with this Clinique mouthful. The two are not the same, one is obviously an oil, which I tend to prefer at night as I find oils more moisturising and specifically rosehip oils good for acne scarring. And the other is a gel-cream, not something I tend to opt for even in the day, generally finding that gels do not give me the level of hydration I can get from a cream or oil. But, the lengthy name got me, with its promise of 72 hours worth of hydration. Plus, it was free, so, why not?

I’ve used it three times now, twice at night and once in the morning, just to work out where it fits best in my routine. I can’t say I have noticed a huge difference in my skin, but that isn’t surprising considering I have only just started to use it. I do have a few dry patches on my face at the moment and it does seem to have helped somewhat with softening them – though they are still there. It seems to layer well over the top of both my morning and evening serums, feels nice and lightweight, and it wore well underneath my makeup today as well. So, first impressions are not bad, I will keep using it, but my gut instinct tells me I’ll be back to oils once I’ve finished because I am a creature of habit.

On my Mum’s recommendation, I started watching True Detective Season 3, which follows the disappearance of two children in the 1980s being recalled by a detective suffering from memory loss in his old age. I enjoyed the first season of this anthology series by Nic Pizzolatto but thought the second was an incredibly dull parody of itself, so I was unsure about starting the third season, worried it would be more of the same. And I have to say, two episodes in, it does share some similarities to the first, but personally, I’m finding it as dull as the second. I’m unsure if I’m struggling with it because I’m simply not in the mood to watch a series with a heavier tone right now, or whether I am just no longer interested in the stories Pizzolatto writes. These are slow-paced series, dealing with serious crimes, with a saturated colour palette (that is how you know a show means serious business) and with characters that mumble more than they actually talk. Perhaps if I had never seen the first season or even the recent adaptation of Sharp Objects which has a somewhat comparable mystery, I would feel more invested and interested in this series, but at the moment it feels like a less gripping rehash, and I’m just not that into it.

In an attempt to combat the sombre tone of True Detective, I decided I wanted something more light-hearted and watched the first episode of After Life, the newest comedy show from Ricky Gervais about a man who has stopped caring about social etiquette after the death of his wife. It was something I had not intended to watch, as I don’t tend to get on with Gervais’ humour as much as I once did, finding it quite repetitive, but I saw a lot of good reviews and thought I’d give it a go. I’m only one episode in and think my gut instinct was right on this one – I have never laughed less at a comedy. To give the show its dues, it does toe the line between drama and comedy, what with the themes around death, but it definitely inclines more to comedy and it just is not to my taste. A lot of the scenes felt constructed for a specific punch line, which takes away any feeling of spontaneity – and, yes, I realise something that is filmed and edited cannot be spontaneous, but any joke made has to feel organic and of the moment especially if it is situational. That is part of what made The Office so great, it felt improvised and real even though it wasn’t. In contrast, everything in After Life feels scripted and forced, even in the choice of certain shots. And this is an issue for a show that is supposed to be grounded in real life and the ugly emotions felt while grieving – if it feels fake and forced in the more flippant moments then I will never buy the more serious scenes. But hey, it is one episode, maybe it gets better. And as it is a series that can be binged in around three hours, perhaps I should give it a second chance.

I’ve just started reading two books, the first of which is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which is a multi-generational novel which starts with two Ghanaian sisters, one of whom marries a white colonizer and the other of whom gets sold into slavery. I believe each chapter follows a different member of the same family tree, so I have just finished each sister’s individual chapter and will now be moving on to a different character – one of their children perhaps. I liked both the chapters that I read, the contrast between the two and the way the interlinked was really interesting, and I have to say I am disappointed to not be following them for longer. I’m curious as to how I’ll get on with following multiple characters, it normally isn’t something I like or look for, but the first two chapters were beautifully written and incredibly powerful so I am eager to read on and see how it all connects by the end.

The other book I have started is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which is a retelling of The Iliad (I guess? I’m not good with Greek myths) and the myth of Achilles, who would’ve guessed it? I picked this up because Miller’s recent novel, Circe has been doing the rounds, and I saw it on offer in the Kindle store and thought I would start with her debut novel. I’m less than fifty pages in, but so far I really it. In terms of a retelling, it feels like everything I wanted The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood to be, in that it appears to actively be retelling and redefining the original tale – though it is worth mentioning I don’t know that much about The Iliad, so who knows. If it keeps on in the direction I think it is headed then I think I’ll love this novel, but obviously, anything could happen in the next three hundred pages, so I am cautiously hopeful.

Those are all of my first impressions, let’s see if they last.

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Five Favourite Things from February

I thought I’d do a round-up of a few things (books, film, beauty, etc.) that I discovered and loved during the last month.

My favourite book that I read last month was If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, which is about a young black couple falling in love and their struggles when one of them is wrongfully imprisoned. This is so beautifully written, it weaves back and forth in time, from character to character but I never felt lost in the narrative. The characters are well realised and themes handled delicately, and powerfully. Like most of Baldwin’s work, the issues surrounding racial inequality are unfortunately just as relevant today as they were in the 1970s, it does not feel dated, though it absolutely should. He is fast becoming one of my favourite writers, I had previously read Giovanni’s Room, and whilst I enjoyed the prose, the story and characters did not stick with me in the way they have in If Beale Street Could Talk. I definitely need to start working my way through his back catalogue.

Somewhat related to fiction, my favourite Youtube video of the month was a video Matthew Sciarappa made on poetry, and why you absolutely can read and understand it. He made some brilliant and encouraging points that I think really need to be made about poetry, a written form that is often seen as something only ‘intellectuals’ can enjoy and broke down that very idea. It’s a great and emboldening video, which I hope has gotten a few people to give the art form a go.

February was a pretty film heavy month for me, as I tried to watch as many of the Oscar-nominated films I could before this year’s ceremony, but despite having watched twelve films – which is more time-consuming than you might imagine – I found most of them kind of disappointing. At best, some of them were just enjoyable films, without much to note, at worst, they were Bohemian Rhapsody (seriously why is this film so adored? Is it just because of the soundtrack? Is it because of Malek? Is it because we all wish we could have been at Live Aid?) But thankfully, there were a couple that I absolutely adored.

The first of which is First Reformed, which is about a Reverend who begins to grapple with his own spirituality and past while trying to counsel a radicalized environmentalist parishioner. It is a film about guilt, grief and the many causes and forms it takes and how we deal with complacency in the face of large issues. It is what I would describe as a ‘quiet’ film, it moves slowly but steadily and is more of a character study than a plot-heavy film. That said, I’d really advise not watching a trailer for this as it gives a bit too much away – I went in blind, and I’m so glad that I did because by the time the final act kicked in I was genuinely on the edge of my seat, simultaneously feeling like I had no idea what was coming but also an intense dread that I did. This film is masterful, everything from the way it is shot, the script and the performance from Ethan Hawke; is so well done, I don’t think it is a stretch to call it Paul Schrader’s magnum opus. Think of it as Taxi Driver for modern times – which is to say, if you didn’t get along with Taxi Driver, you probably won’t like this. It isn’t a film for everyone, I think the ending especially will leave some feeling unsatisfied, but for me, the whole film was damn near perfection and an instant favourite.

The second film is The Favourite, a period piece about two women’s rivalry for power and favour from Queen Anne. I’m sure I don’t need to go too much into this, we’ve all heard about it, and if we weren’t all completely besotted with Olivia Coleman before the Oscars, we are now. I loved how darkly funny and odd and tragic this film is, but again, not a film for everyone. I’m genuinely surprised that most of the people who I know who have watched this film didn’t think much of it. I don’t know if it’s because of the ending that it’s throwing people off or people were expecting something… different? Funnier, maybe? I don’t know, it was everything I expected and wanted and more, the only real criticism I have is that the score was too repetitive and began to get on my nerves after a while, but that is just me being picky.

Honourable mention goes to At Eternity’s Gate for containing one of my favourite performances of all time in Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh. He was robbed of an Oscar, that’s all I’ll say on that.

Finally, a beauty favourite of the month was the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. This isn’t actually new to me, but I ran out of it in February and replaced it with a sample I had of the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, which I immediately regretted once a string of painful spots appeared on my chin. I swiftly placed an order to replace my Clinique balm and have been happy ever since. To compare the two (and they are very different products), the Fresh cleanser had more of a gel texture, was difficult to apply and felt more drying in contrast to the Clinique, which turns into more of an oily texture when applied, and never leaves my skin feeling stripped. And it doesn’t break me out. I was a fool to stray away, and I won’t be making that mistake again!

So those are my five favourite things from February, hopefully I’ll figure out a way to tone down the wall of text by next month!

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