I started this out as one post but as I began blabbering on about each product it became clear that I was going to have to split it up in order to avoid putting people to sleep. Sure I could just throw some pictures up and proclaim them ‘my favs!’ but I like reading other’s honest opinions of skincare and beauty products – they help me decide whether or not I’m going to give something a chance, or try something new – so, I thought I’d flesh out the reasons why these things are staples in my beauty routine.
Basically my ‘All Stars’ are products that I’ve been using for ages or have recently discovered and fallen in love with. These are products that I always keep in stock no matter what, for one simple reason: they work (imagine that!).
So we’ll start with skincare, since for most people it’s the first things they use in their routines. I’ve also included a couple shower-related favourites for good measure.
Please note that I have not received any of these items as promos – I am only interested in sharing my favourite products with you.
Spectro Jel Cleanser – Blemish-Prone, Fragrance-Free
This unassuming, viscous gel has always lived in the shadows of all the flashy, new and exciting cleansers I’ve bought over the years (and for the most part subsequently discarded). It’s been content to live on my shower rack, never really making a big spectacle with fancy packaging or exotic fragrances. I used to only use this in the mornings during my shower but have recently adopted it as my nightly cleanser after becoming totally fed up with every other cleanser on the market. And I’m serious, I’ve tried E-VER-Y-THING. Cleansers with Salicylic Acid, or Benzoyl Peroxide; some with ‘pore-purging’ scrubbers or soothing aloe vera and chamomile. Generic, Name Brand, High End. Every type. Every brand. And old faithful Spectro has always there, watching me lose my shit after yet another face wash didn’t live up to expectations. The only other one that ever came close to Holy Grail status was Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser; it was perfect – I was in love and all was grand – until they pulled it from the shelves, re-jigged the formula, and re-introduced it months later with the unwelcome addition of Menthol, an ingredient that Neutrogena has an affinity for in order to get that ‘tingly’ sensation that’s supposed to make your face feel clean (but only serves to make my face red and irritated). So a few weeks ago I turned to my humble, trusty Spectro silently asking it, ‘you up to the job?’ So far, it has definitely been up to the task. It is the epitome of gentle and effective. If GlaxoSmithKline ever discontinues this or messes with the formula, bad things will happen (by me, to them).
Spectro HydraCare Oil Free Moisturizers – Dry, Combination, and Blemish-Prone Skin
I can’t remember exactly when Spectro launched their moisturizers, a year or two ago I think, but I was very happy to see them enter the moisturizer market. Having oily/combo, acne-prone skin means a few things as far as moisturizers go: 1. It has to be oil-free; 2. It must not contain about a bazillion pore-clogging ingredients; 3. It has to be non-irritating, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic never hurts either. 4. It can’t break the bank. Quite, frankly, this is asking a lot. As anyone with this skin type knows, I am paranoid about what I put on my face. I read every ingredient. I scour the internet for reviews and opinions. I spend hours on Makeupalley checking out what others with finicky skin such as me have to say. Before trying the Spectro Moisturizers, as with the wide array of cleansers I’ve tried, I bought every brand of oil-free moisturizer on the market, and had settled fairly comfortably with Olay Complete lotion for Sensitive Skin. The problem with the Olay Complete is really just the SPF – although it doesn’t cause breakouts, it can make your skin a touch greasy looking – but this is pretty much par for the course with any moisturizer containing SPF. I tried the regular Olay for sensitive skin lotion (no SPF), and just found that it didn’t quite moisturize enough, especially any particularly dry areas. So enter Spectro yet again to save the day. I initially tried the Blemish-Prone (Purple) version first, and then the Dry (Green), and finally the Combo (Orange), and I’ve now settled on the fact that I need all 3. Hoarder much, you ask? Well, I found that I need the different formulas for different reasons and seasons: Purple is great in the summer or overnight on my forehead which doesn’t usually get dry, Green for the winter, especially if my skin is overly flaky from the elements or from harsh products/treatments, and Orange as my all-round go-to, day-to-day moisturizer. As none of them offer any sun-protection, I still use the Olay complete in the summer and just deal with the SPF sheen.
Neutrogena Alcohol- Free Toner
A lot of people wave off toners as unnecessary, but since I started using them years ago, it’s become a staple in my skin-care routine. If I don’t actually use it between washing my face and applying moisturizer, I feel like my face isn’t totally clean. That’s just company brainwashing! you may say, but I see the little bits of stuff on the cotton pad after I use it, so I say good day to you sir – I don’t even care if it’s just towel lint, I don’t want it on my face. My mum actually turned me on to this product years ago, touting it’s virtues as gentle and alcohol-free. I really can’t emphasize enough how important it is that this toner doesn’t contain any alcohol, which is one of the top ingredients in about 99% of all toners on the market. The problem is, alcohol is sooooo drying and strips your skin of its natural moisture. I personally just find regular toners way too harsh. One thing I’ve come to learn about my face is, no matter how bad it is, I have to treat it as kindly and gently as possible. Washing and stripping and burning your skin will only serve to irritate and in many cases further aggravate whatever condition you may have (dryness, sensitivity, blemishes, etc.). This toner is gentle and soothing, yet still makes your skin feel clean. I’ve tried other alcohol-free toners (Nivea, Aveeno) but I always come back to the trusty blue bottle.
St. Ives Naturally Clear Green Tea Scrub
Back in November when I visited my sister in Toronto for the IMATS show, she mentioned that she’d found a great new scrub from St. Ives that she’d been buying from the States (it wasn’t yet available in Canada). I tried hers and immediately loved the smooth, grainy texture of it – the exfoliating particles were much smaller and less sharp feeling then the regular St. Ives Scrub I’d been using forever. When I got back to Ottawa, I was very happy to find it in the Superstore, in a bonus size no less! I also picked up the Green Tea Cleanser but that of course went the way of the trash bin. The scrub however, is here to stay. Great texture, great smell, great price.
Clean & Clear Makeup Dissolving Foaming Cleanser & Facial Wipes
A few years ago, after I started wearing foundation on a more regular basis, I had a light-bulb moment as far as cleansing my face at night went – how was I expecting my face wash to really do its work if it had to get through a layer of makeup first? I decided I needed a 2-step approach to cleansing: 1. remove makeup 2. wash face. At that time I began using Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser for Step 1 and then whatever bandwagon cleanser after that. I actually used the FFC for years until I was finally fed up with having red, stinging eyes after I washed my face. Oh yes, I also forgot to mention that I use Step 1 to remove my eye makeup as well. My evening routine is long enough, I don’t need a separate step to get my mascara off. Anyway, I started looking for something else. In the interim I reverted back to using cold cream for my eye makeup (which I hate, it leaves my eyes so red and tender from all the wiping) and using FFC for my face. When I bought the Clean&Clear Makeup Dissolving Foaming Cleanser my expectations weren’t high – but boy was I surprised! This stuff gets off every bit of my makeup, including all eye makeup, with ZERO eye irritation. I also have the Facial Wipes for instances where I just want to refresh my face but don’t necessarily want to wash it yet (after the gym, at the end of a hot day), or to take with me on overnight stays away from home. Quick tip as well, both Neutrogena and Clean & Clear are manufactured by Johnson & Johnson so chances are, they’ll have similar items at differing price points. Case in point, the Clean & Clear face wipes have almost an identical ingredient list to the Neutrogena All-In-One Makeup Removing wipes, yet the C&C ones are about $4.00 cheaper. It definitely pays to read the label!
St. Ives Skin Firming Body Lotion
Okay, right off the bat, I don’t really buy into lotions that claim they’re going to firm anything, besides maybe my knowledge that gimmicks rarely work as well as they claim. That being said, this is my hands down favourite all over body lotion. Moisturizing enough to use year round – will keep winter skin supple and summer skin, well, supple too I guess – and easy on the wallet. It sinks in quickly ensuring it’s not a struggle to get dressed soon afterwards, it smells wonderful and, hey, any actually firming action is just a bonus.
Vaseline Healthy Hand & Nail Lotion
This little, irresistible pink tube of heavenly smelling hand lotion kills me. It’s a little pricier then I’d like to pay for cream that’s only going to go on my frequently washed hands – somehow it feels a bit like literally pouring money down the drain – but once I’d taken a whiff of this stuff it hooked me like a drug. It is my favourite lotion smell, second only to the St. Ives Firming lotion, both of which seem to trigger some sort of memory response that never actually connects to a memory. Whoa, that’s a lot of reaction for lotion, right? Anyway, although I love this stuff, I only buy it on sale, therefore it’s almost an extra special little treat on my nightstand, cherished in the knowledge that once I run out, it may be awhile before I smell it again (creepy!).
Eucerin Replenishing Face Cream
The only other product that I’ve spent more time and money trying to find besides the perfect cleanser, is the perfect eye cream. I’ve shelled out countless dollars on every ultra-moisturizing, soothing, firming, brightening, tightening, wrinkle-fighting concoction that’s poured into those insultingly small 15ml tubes. Nothing ever brightened my eyes, or tightened my skin, and many of them actually burned or stung or made my eyes water. I have to say that this one item, for such a small area of facial skin, has pretty much been the absolute bane of my existence. To be perfectly honest though I’ve never tried most of the ‘higher-end’ eye creams as frankly, I almost find it offensive and an affront to my common sense to shell out hundreds of dollars for less product than what is contained in my morning yogurt cup. I just can’t do it. After completely exhausting every eye cream available on the drugstore shelves, I came across this Face Cream after trying to find a Eucerin eye cream. I liked what I saw on the back of the tube, read some reviews on my phone, and took the plunge – what did I have to lose? (some fine lines perhaps?). Honestly, fingers crossed, this is the best cream I have ever used as an eye cream – ever. It doesn’t irritate in the least (although, of course, make sure it doesn’t get into you actual eye), it has a sumptuous, creamy texture, it does not break me out, and, best of all, it has actually improved the skin around my eyes. Obviously fine lines and wrinkles are irreversible (despite what people/products may say), but this cream hydrates, softens and improves the way my makeup sits on top of it. One word of caution though, unless your lids are extremely dry, I wouldn’t recommend using this on your upper eye lids before applying makeup as it can cause certain things (like eyeliner) to slip and slide a bit throughout the day. After unwittingly spending a workday with black rainbows on my lids I switched to a lighter eye cream on my upper lids during the day (Yes to Carrots Moisturizing Eye Cream), with the Eucerin on the under eye area (FYI at night I put it on top and bottom). And the kicker? You get 50mL instead of the usual 15mL. This cream saved not only the thirsty, delicate skin around my eyes, but also my sanity. Thank you Eucerin, love Kelly.
Gillette Sensitive Skin Shave Foam
Here’s a tip – stop buying fruity gel with which to transport your sheered leg hairs down the drain and buy something practical! Honestly I got so sick of paying all this money for melon/berry/island-breeze scented shaving gel/foam that really didn’t give me model-esque legs, just plain old shaved legs. Perusing the shaving aisle one day I stopped in front of the men’s products and thought “if guys are using this stuff on their faces, certainly it must be good enough for my legs!”. And it was. And for a better value. I’ve never looked back since.
L’Oreal Ever Pure Sulphate Free Shampoo
Oh it’s easy to get lured in watching Eva Longoria swish her unbearable shiny, silky hair all around some luxurious set, or see her casual off-camera gaze, locks shimmering under the studio lights in the printed ad campaigns, but will the product actually deliver? For the most part, I’ve found L’Oreal hair products work ok, not nearly enough wow factor to make me totally loyal to their brand, but I’ve always liked and used their colour care shampoos and conditioners. When the EverPure line came out several years ago I thought I’d give it a go, especially since I learned that the biggest culprit in hair colour-fading was harsh shampoos (i.e. sulphates). I remember I first bought these on my honeymoon in Las Vegas – I didn’t pack any hair stuff with the idea that I’d just buy what I needed there and leave it on the way back (I was quite certain that if I packed any squishy-tubed products in my luggage that they would explode all over my clothes). So upon arrival and dazzled by the unbelievable US prices, I picked up the EverPure Moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. The first thing that got me was the scent – Rosemary Juniper. Sounds weird, smells AMAZING. I don’t really know how to describe it – a lot of people online are polarized to either end of the spectrum: love (as myself) or total hatred. It’s kind of a fresh, floral, almost unisex kind of smell. I absolutely adore it. I wish it was perfume so I could douse myself in it. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t fade my hair and makes it nice and clean and soft. But ooooh, that smell!! Needless to say, most products were left behind, but these two definitely came home with me.
Next time: Part II: Cosmetics