I’m excited to share some of my skincare favorites from Kiehl’s today! I have used and loved so many things from Kiehl’s over the years. They have a lot of great everyday staples for a wide range of skin types and needs. (Andrew also uses a lot from the men’s line!) I’ve partnered with them to highlight some of my favorites. If you’re looking for some things to refresh your winter skincare routine, I hope you find this roundup helpful!
Ultra Facial Cream
The Ultra Facial Cream has been a go-to staple for a great everyday lightweight moisturizer. It’s one of their best sellers suitable for all skin types. It has a lightweight feel, absorbs nicely into the skin, and has a mix of Squalane and Glycerin to restore and retain moisture to the skin. I love that it’s smooth and balancing. A little goes a long way.
I have quite a few other things from Kiehl’s in my skincare routine. I tend to rotate skincare as the seasons change but I have several staples I use regularly. Their Ultra Facial Cleanser is a favorite of mine for it’s thick texture. It’s great to remove excess oil, dirt, makeup and even sunscreen. I love that it’s effective at cleansing but doesn’t strip the skin.
Kiehl’s has a lot of great toners too! One I’ve been loving lately is the Milk-Peel Gentle Exfoliating Toner. I like this one because it has salicylic acid and a mixture of other ingredients to gently resurface, soften and brighten skin.
For night time treatments I love the Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum. It’s one of the few retinol products my skin can handle. It works well to keep my skin smooth and helps reduce wrinkles over time. The Micro-Dose technology allows for positive anti-aging results without harsh side effects.
One last favorite I want to highlight is the Rare Earth Deep Pore Minimizing Cleansing Clay Mask. I love this to give the skin a detox cleanse once a week and this is one of my favorite masks to do just that. It helps reduce clogged pores and blackheads. I’ll use it as a spot treatment on trouble areas. Leave it on for around 10 minutes and rinse. Skin feels a lot smoother, tighter and pore size is reduced.
That wraps up my Top 5 Kiehl’s favorites in my routine right now! You can find all the items available online at Kiehl’s.
One of my go-to brands in skincare is having a Friends and Family sale and I’m excited to share an early access code for you a few days early! Kiehl’s is offering 25% off sitewide this week through 3/24 with code EARLY25 (public sale starts 3/25). I’ve partnered with them to share a closer look at a couple of skincare staples I’ve added to my routine.
Ultra Facial Cream
The Ultra Facial Cream is one of their classic skincare staples. It’s a lightweight cream suitable for all skin types (even my sensitive skin). It absorbs well and never feels heavy. It contains Glacial Glycoprotein to add hydration and prevent water loss from the skin and Squalane to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier. The formula layers well with their serums and sunscreens too. I especially love that there is no fragrance or scent to it. (Full ingredient list on their product page.)
Ultra Facial Cleanser
A new discovery for me is the Ultra Facial Cleanser. Out of all the skincare products out there, I love testing cleansers! This is a really nice foaming cleanser that is gentle, effective but won’t strip the skin. It has Squalane, Apricot Kernels and Avocado Oil. I really like this one because it cleanses the skin well without leaving it super tight. Available in two sizes including a 2.5 oz ($12) and 5.0 oz ($22).
One of the most frequently asked skincare questions I get is how to treat dark spots and post-acne scars. Living in Florida I’m exposed to a lot of sunshine and I’ve experienced hyperpigmentation in patches around my cheeks from the sun. My skin is usually pretty good in terms of having minimal acne and break outs, but some are unavoidable. Even if I’m careful to not pick my face, my skin is often left with post-acne scars and dark marks. The good news is that these spots can indeed be treated! I’m excited to share a look at one of my favorite dark spot correctors from Kiehl’s today. The Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution is a great serum to help brighten the skin and treat hyperpigmentation.
According to their trials, after 1 bottle:
97% of women saw significant reduction in hyperpigmentation
97% of women saw significant reduction in dark spots
87% saw reduction in post acne scars
The Kiehl’s Dark Spot Solution formula has Activated C (stabilized form of Vitamin C) to help with dullness and uneven skin tone. It also contains Buffered Salicylic Acid to break up discoloration.
You can use this serum a number of ways, either as a spot treatment or as an all over face serum morning and night. Kiehl’s recommends using the serum to treat discoloration on hands, neck or chest which I am going to try soon!
My favorite way to use this is as a spot treatment on areas that I have noticeable darker patches or sun spots. For acne scars and discoloration I feel it’s important to treat those as soon as possible to prevent longer-term scarring.
Seeing results will take time and consistent use. Time to see results will depend on the level of hyperpigmentation or discoloration you have. For my cheek bone sun spots I saw a noticeable difference within a couple of weeks. For my acne scars, I usually see dark spots form immediately after the acne has healed. The dark spots stay around for weeks and don’t fade until the skin has fully regenerated and everything has resurfaced. I applied the Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution as a spot treatment on my chin area where I had break outs and the scars started to fade immediately. It significantly sped up the healing process for my post-acne scars. I can’t emphasize how important it is to treat acne scars as soon as you can to prevent discoloration from developing and settling in. It’s also important to combine brightening treatments with SPF and moisturizer to protect and nourish the skin.
Bottom line is I think it’s definitely worth checking out. My husband Andrew also struggles with hyperpigmentation on his cheekbones and is super diligent about wearing sunscreen and trying dark spot treatments. He’s started to use this and I’m excited to see what he thinks!
You can find the Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution available at Kiehl’s. Use the code CLEARLY15 for 15% off any purchase (this excludes sets and cannot be combined with other promos). Do you have any favorites from their line?
As promised I have a sunscreen roundup series of everything I’ve tested over the past several months – 95 days to be exact. The sunshine here in Florida is stronger than anything I’ve experienced in California. Our first week here both Andrew and I got burned from being outside just a mere 5 minutes simply walking around our backyard. I immediately unpacked sunscreen bottles and sprays that I had brought with me from our move and we used everything up in a matter of a couple days because we sprayed it everywhere. After using everything up we began our search for the best formulas that weren’t greasy, didn’t have that sunscreen spray, felt long lasting and were the most effective at preventing burn and tanning. Unfortunately so far the only way to avoid getting darker is to stay out of the sun or be covered up entirely. Over the past three months we’ve put quite a few sunscreens to the test.
This sunscreen edit is going to be split up into two parts: body and face. In gathering all the tubes we’ve tested, I found that there were around 25 different formulas we tried and we gave each one a thorough test run (with the exception of the tinted face ones which I tested but my husband did not). Both of us wished there was a formula that could be truly suitable for both face and body and while there are many formulas designed for multi-use, we’ve found for the most part we have to use separate formulas. Many bottles we used up entirely, mostly for the body. We each have our favorites which I’ll mention at the bottom.
When it comes to sunscreen I have to admit it’s all a bit confusing. So many articles, doctors, specialists each have their own opinion on what the minimum SPF you should use. Some say sunscreens with high SPF numbers aren’t more effective over SPF 50. Others say the minimum amount you should wear is SPF 30 and if that’s the case then what’s the point of something with SPF 10 or 15? Also a look at some of the bottles I have and others online also show some have a PA rating which I wasn’t aware of. I did some research and discovered that the SPF (sun protection factor) measures how a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, but that there is another rating to measure protection from UVA rays. This apparently isn’t measured in all countries and I looked up every sunscreen I tested and most of them don’t have a rating (a PA followed by + or ++ or +++). So while most sunscreens will say they are “broad spectrum” to cover both UVA and UVB protection, it’s difficult to measure how much UVA protection there is which appears to be due to the fact that there’s no adopted standard in the US. According to Skincancer.org, “To make sure you’re getting effective UVA as well as UVB coverage, look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, plus some combination of the following UVA-screening ingredients: stabilized a avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. MexorylTM), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.”
Then there are different types of sunscreen such as physical vs chemical. This site and this article help break it down, but still as one with super sensitive skin, I always proceed with caution. Many of my friends prefer mineral sunscreens (which are physical and chemical free) but I know some people have sensitivity to zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide which are their only active ingredients.
All that being said I’m still learning about sunscreens. We tested different formulas to see what lasted the longest and also how each formula felt on the skin. Traditionally I’ve found that I liked spray formulas because they are easy for me to apply on my own especially on my back. I’ve read mixed reviews about sprays and the biggest concern is that you don’t always know that you’re getting the proper coverage since product is prone to evaporation when you mist it before it hits the skin. With sprays we’ve both made a point to try and mist each other and give each area several layers to try and get as full coverage as possible.
Up first are a mix of what we consider to be the longest-lasting formulas and then thoughts on some sprays. For body sunscreens it’s a must for me that there’s no white cast. I know many of them look white once you apply but the color disappears after a few minutes. In general the ones with a white cast tend to feel thicker and heavier on the skin. I wanted to see if I could find something that would be effective without being thick.
Shown from above from left to right. Note that a number of these are water resistant with a time limit. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been in the water for 80 minutes so I can’t report on the time claims. But I will note which ones did the best in water.
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%
This is the latest from Supergoop! and I love this one. It’s a lightweight hydrating mousse that is long-lasting with a very light clean scent. It has a whipped texture when you dispense it and it’s easy to apply and blend into the skin. It contains Blue Sea Kale to provide antioxidant protection from heat rays, and shea butter, olive and avocado oils to keep skin hydrated. My husband felt this was too hydrating for his skin and for him since he sweats more in the heat this one felt a bit heavy on him but he does agree it lasts a long time. On me it was perfect.
Both are hydrating lotions with the signature Moroccanoil scent but to me I detect a hint of licorice (which nobody else I know can smell in it so it must just be my nose). This is the most hydrating formula I’ve tried – these formulas have Argan Oil, Coconut Oil and Glycerine. Both the SPF 30 and 50 last a long time on the skin. For me I find them too heavy for every day normal use, I prefer them for the beach or outdoors. My husband on the other hand finds them hydrating but doesn’t mind the emollient feel. These have a super moisturizing feel and they do make the skin noticeably softer and helps with any dry patches or texture. The SPF 50 version noticeably helped prevent me from tanning a lot more than the SPF 30.
This one is a spray that works on wet or dry skin, on dry skin I felt it was just ok. It adheres well but the drydown isn’t my favorite and it wasn’t quite as effective on me at preventing darkening. Re-application on wet skin however is another story and I wholeheartedly like this one on wet skin. For some reason I found it adhered easily on wet skin and worked when we went swimming in our pool and at the beach. Your mileage may vary on this one.
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3.0%, Homosalate 4.0%, Octinoxate 6.0%, Octisalate 3.0%
This is one I’ve used up a number of times, it does have a slight alcohol scent but it’s a non-aerosol and the bottle says it has 35% less alcohol than other sprays although it does not specify which brands they are referring to. I find the misting dispenser to be really effective at applying product. I feel like it gives a more continuous mist which dispenses more product. I like this one because it’s non irritating, easy to apply and I can get my back without getting my hands greasy and spray those harder to reach places on my own. The only downside is that excess from sprays can get on the floor so if you spray inside the floor can get a bit slippery.
This is both one of our top picks, we have tried a few other face sunscreens from Kiehl’s in the past and really liked them, for this formula they have both SPF 30 and 50. It’s a semi thick cream but is easy to blend, feels weightless, doesn’t have that greasy feel and has a good dry down. This lasted well in the pool and is completely fragrance/scent free. We found it really good at protecting the skin and since it has a lightweight texture it’s easy to reapply without feeling like you have layers of product on the skin throughout the day.
I think I would 100% love this if it had a higher SPF. This is a light weight oil spray that has skincare properties to hydrate and nourish the skin and hair. It contains organic Indonesian Nyamplung Oil to protect skin and hair from the drying effects of sun, salt water and chlorine, senna extract defends from UV damage, Plane Tree extract fights free radicals. I really like the feel and hydration this offers. I rub this on my body and any excess on my hands I apply on the hair. It has a lightweight aloe almost honey-like scent that’s completely natural. The sun and heat can dry out the skin so I love that this is an oil that nourishes the skin. I need to invest in some of their After Sun Care like this After Sun Gel Ultra-Soothing product. If you have any good burn relief products you like that aren’t sticky let me know!
This is another great sunscreen spray with SPF 50+ and it has no white cast. So many of you have raved and recommended Shiseido for sunscreens and I really think they have great formulas. However most of them have that white cast which I just detest. Many of you have said they fade after a few minutes and I think if you’re fair or light skin it does seem like it will disappear after setting. However on those of us with medium-tan to deep skin there’s still a contrast even with the dry down. Anyways this spray is completely clear. You can use it on both face and body but I prefer it on the body. It’s lightweight and has no greasy feel although it does have a slight hydrating effect with a glow. I found this to be very effective and long lasting in the water.
Up next are what we consider to be among the best non-greasy body sunscreens. At this point in our lives we’ve both agreed that we can live with a slightly greasy feel as long as there’s no hideous sunscreen scent. We are more conscientious about taking care of our skin. We have however found some great ones with no greasy residue.
Shown same as the above photo because this is in the top pick for my husband in favorites for effectiveness at protection, preventing burn and minimizing tanning while still being lightweight, quick absorbing and suitable for both face and body. For me it’s in my top three for body. It truly is non-greasy, unscented and has a nice dry down. We really love Kiehl’s – this tube is completely used up, my husband loves it for both the face and body. We need to restock soon.
Active Ingredients: Homosalate 10%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%, Avobenzone 3%
This is in my top 3 for lightweight sunscreens. It’s oil-free for face and body, it is enriched with their Cellular Response Technology to preserve and protect the skin’s glow – and my husband even commented that my legs looked like they had a really nice glow with this on. Because it has a no-grease residue this is another good one for me to reapply every 2 hours and as the day progresses I don’t feel like I’m layering on tons of product.
With this one I have mixed feelings primarily because it seems to have a lack of consistency. I bought a tube from CVS in store and then bought a multi-pack at Costco and while the product names are identical, the ingredient listing and order was not. I purchased them within a couple weeks of each other, both in Florida. I don’t know if one has a cheaper formula than the other or if they simply just changed it depending on distribution timing. This one has a creamy texture that’s semi thick but glides on the skin nicely. It does indeed have super sheer feeling finish but it’s not liquid so it doesn’t feel like it just dissolves on the skin. We both really like the formula, matte finish, long lasting effect. It did work to protect our skin – but as I’m already one who finds ingredients confusing, the difference in listings between the tubes makes me suspicious about quality.
This brand has been recommended to me by friends and readers for years. It’s one I’ve wanted to try for a while but every time I see it in person I can’t help but be completely overwhelmed by the options! This one is actually for the face but my husband likes this on the body because of the lightweight feel and matte drydown. He feels this is one of the most effective ones for his skin and likes that if he sweats it doesn’t sting his eyes. We picked ours up from Blue Mercury but I’ve looked at the La Roche-Posay site and have been trying to figure out what to try next. If you have any specific recommendations please let me know what formulas worked for you.
That rounds up our body sunscreen testing! We only had 1 miss which wasn’t included here because we used a face sunscreen stick on our body and both broke out in a horrible reaction. It’s not included here because I suspect it was user error rather than product error. We were lucky to have a lot of hits and I was super lucky nothing caused an allergic reaction as I’ve almost always broke out in red bumps with drugstore sunscreens. In summary here are our thoughts on the best, longest lasting and what we recommend:
Longest lasting ones on the skin for best water-resistant formulas for both of us include the Supergoop! Super Power Sunscreen Mousse and the Moroccanoil SPF 50, these are also the heaviest with the most emollient feel
Longest lasting formulas for skin but lightweight if you’re not in water include the Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with SPF 50 and Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Sunscreen with SPF 50
Best lightweight winners for my husband are the La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid Anthelios 60 and Kiehl’s
Best lightweight winners for me are the Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with SPF 50 and Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray, I also like the Kiehl’s as well but prefer the other two if I had to only pick 2
Because of the improved lasting power of so many of these we’ve found that we need to triple wash ourselves in the evenings with shower gel. Some of these really stick to your skin! If you have any sunscreen favorites for the body let me know in the comments. Any brand recs appreciated but if you can leave the formula name as well those are super helpful as so many lines have multiple formulas it’s so confusing when I’m at the store to pick one!
Face sunscreen roundup to follow soon! For those curious about the accessories shown:
It’s been a little over a month since we moved to Florida and I cannot believe how fast time flies! I’ve been sharing snippets of our weekly explorations of Tampa on Instagram Stories and I’m touched by those who’ve sent kind words of support and even restaurant recommendations. This move has been such a huge change for me as I’ve lived in California most of my life. Living in the south is such a new and different experience but change can be good and my husband and I are loving it so far. Yesterday I shared a quick what’s in my bag video on Instagram – I received so much positive feedback I thought I’d do a post on it in case you missed it. One thing that has surprised us about Tampa is that the city seems a lot bigger and more spread out than we expected. On days (primarily weekends) where we are out and about it feels like we are out for extended periods of time and because of this I’ve found it necessary to pack an extra set of clothes in the trunk since temperatures can change a lot. I’ve also had to pack some extra things in my bag since making a quick trip home isn’t always an efficient option time-wise.
I do switch up my bag contents frequently and I don’t always carry this much with me but let’s call this my weekend out and about edition of what’s inside my bag. A look at what was inside my Neverful MM bag yesterday:
So up first are some tech things. By popular request I’ll be doing an updated camera post on what I use to shoot my blog photos. I did one a few years ago but have since acquired a couple more cameras. My long-time favorite was the Sony NEX-6 but it was discontinued. It has held up for a long time and I love it but unfortunately dropped it and broke the lens. It is an easy replacement but since newer models have come out, I decided to try the Sony Alpha 5100 because it has a flip screen and a slightly smaller body. Review on this soon, but first impressions are that I like the design and features of the NEX-6 a lot better because of the viewfinder, dial and option for external flash. (The current version is the Alpha 6000.) Another camera I’ve used for a long time is the Canon G16, another model that has been discontinued. The more popular version which is the closest equivalent is the G7x Mark II which has the flip screen option for vlogging or selfies.
So inside my bag yesterday I carried two cameras to test outdoors. For my Sony I have an older leather camera case, similar options here and here. For my Canon I never bought a proper case. It usually stays in good condition if I put it inside my purse alone, but since I’ve been carrying more sunscreen and mini perfumes (to reduce swelling for bug bites if I get them), I try to protect it a bit more. I’ve found the Glossier bubble pouches are a cheap quick fix for now. Also inside my bag is a Gucci Card Case, iPhone case is from Gray Malin, sunglasses are by Marc Jacobs (currently 25% off at Nordstrom).
For body, skincare and makeup, I find that clear Truffle Pouches are essential to keeping everything organized. I tend to prefer open totes and have found that things can get cluttered and messy without dividers. I should invest in a separate purse insert/divider but for years I’ve loved the clear pouches for almost anything and everything.
I have an older style of the Truffle Small Clarity Clutch (older ones had the red trim, current version has a white trim) to carry hand creams, skincare and sunscreen. In this weekend’s bag I had the Molton Brown Hand Cream in Pink Pepperpod, Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve (mini from this set), Fresh Sugar Sport Sunscreen (for my husband) and the Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray with SPF50. I’ve still been putting a number of sunscreens to the test. I’ve found Shiseido comes highly recommended by a lot of my readers but I’ve never found a sunscreen I could convince myself to buy because the creams have a white cast. The spray version is clear and today it did a pretty good job at protecting me and by the end of the day I had no reaction or bumps like I get with most brands of sunscreen.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into my bag! So many of you were so sweet on my Instastories I wanted to share it in a blog post. If there’s anything else you want to see on Instagram let me know. I’m new to taking video clips but I’m having lots of fun with it. Some quick notes on what’s coming up soon on the blog: an updated skincare routine (since my skin has become a lot drier since moving to Florida), sunscreen roundup (might be another week though), some more Tom Ford goodness (new fragrance, a look at the Paradiso Eye Duo and thoughts on one of the body sprays), thoughts on the new MAC Next to Nothing foundation and some loves in body care/home. Basically a little bit of everything!
Since moving to Tampa from San Diego, both my husband and I have experienced dryness in skin and hair. We’re not really sure what the cause is as we expected to be more oily with the heat and humidity. We’ve both been drinking plenty of water, we’ve made an effort to have as little sun exposure as possible, but this is kinda impossible in Florida, we’ve been eating healthy – if you have any insight on what could be the cause let me know in the comments. I suspect it could be the difference in water, but we’re both baffled!
Press samples featured include the Tom Ford Lip Balm, Truffle Clarity Clutch (small, older style) and Molton Brown hand cream.
The most frequently asked questions I receive from readers relate to hand and nail care. For my nail polish posts I feature a mix of DIY and salon manicures. Finding a good salon and a reliable manicurist can take some time, then maintaining the nails with professional care can take up to 1 hour for a regular manicure so that requires additional time. Because I did so many polish reviews and swatches over the past years I could not afford to get regular manicures with the frequency of reviewing polish – both with the cost and time. I had to learn how to do it on my own so I observed the techniques of my favorite manicurists and practiced on my own. I will say that regular salon manicures and pedicures are 100% worth the splurge. Often times during high-stress periods in my life I found it impossible to shut off my mind and de-stress, even after work hours. Manicures kind of helped me stay sane because when someone is working on your hands you’re pretty much stuck doing nothing except for fun brainless tasks like reading magazines or listening to music or watching YouTube videos on your phone. It helped my brain go into hibernate mode so to speak. Also there’s something refreshing about having freshly groomed fingers or toes that makes you feel instantly alive and more put together.
For hand and nail care I typically stick to a few tried and true items and it has been the case for several years. I did my Nail and Hand Care Essentials back in 2014 (wow time flies!) but many of you have asked for an updated post with a tutorial. I finally have one to share with you today and if you compare the posts you’ll see that not much has changed. A few notes for newbies. If your nails are not in the best state I would highly recommend getting them cleaned, cuticles trimmed and polished professionally. Doing something like a manicure once a month or every other week for a little while can help improve the look and health of your nails. I think they can work miracles! If you have any cracks, chipped nails, or problem areas, a manicurist can help smooth everything out nicely. Once they’re in a better state you can do touch ups or manicures at home in between professional manis.
Up first are the tools then a DIY manicure tutorial of how I maintain and paint my fingers. Note that even after all this time of practice I can’t give myself a pedicure without it looking like I gooped a bunch of finger paint on my toes.
Tools of the Trade
I wish there was one brand or store where I could find all the best tools, unfortunately there is not. If you’re going to use my list as a shopping list for yourself, you will have to do a bit of shopping around. Most of the items I’ve bought can be found at Sephora, Ulta and Nordstrom (my 3 favorite beauty stores). Many of the items can also be found online at Amazon. If you’re shopping in store – check the online store locators to check inventory first. Often times I’ve gone to Ulta and found they were sold out of all the items on my list. They do restock frequently but to save time it’s best to research online and make a list first if you’re going to go out to multiple stores. As usual I’ve linked all the products to where I’ve bought the items in the past.
Revlon Nail Clippers – these are an older style, I can’t remember how long ago I bought these, the current versions have an embossed pattern on the surface, to clip nails I recommend clipping about 1/2 to 1/4 of what you think you need to trim. It’s better to do it in stages and then clip more. My biggest challenge was over-clipping.
Nail files – I usually accumulate cheap ones here and there, I’m not brand loyal to any particular type.
Ulta Beauty Crystal Nail File is no longer available online but you can find one from the Sephora Collection that is only $10. These are great for those with sensitive nails, there’s no grit texture like with traditional files so it’s more gentle on the nails.
Deborah Lippman Cuticle Remover is what I call my secret weapon for nails. It softens the cuticle area so you can push back any excess skin to trim them. This is an essential in my routine. I don’t know if she changed the packaging – I’ve seen a few in stores with a brush applicator instead of the dropper.
Tweezerman Cuticle Nipper is what I use to trim cuticles, it fits well in the hands and does the job well, mine has lasted since 2014, I do need to replace it soon though.
Face It Pro Salon Nail Pusher is something I bought at a local Korean Supermarket (Zion Marketplace in San Diego), I have super tiny fingers so this one is a bit large for my hands but still works, I like the shape of the tools and quality.
Not shown above, but there was a limited-edition Zwilling Manicure Set my husband uses and loves, this has been discontinued but he likes the quality of their tools if you’re looking for items for your man.
Base and Top Coats
My absolute favorite base and top coats have now been discontinued (Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Base Coat, Formula X Base Coat, Chanel Brilliance Top Coat and all the items from Rescue Beauty Lounge). I have still found some others that I really like.
Nails Inc. 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar is a great top coat that doesn’t have any shrinkage with polishes like Chanel, Dior or Tom Ford. Mine lasted about 2.5 years before it got thick and I had to throw it out. It lasted me so long because I rotate top coat brands. This one does dry within 45 seconds – just make sure your polish coats have properly dried first before applying. This gives the nails a super glossy cushiony look.
Nails Inc. base coats I’ve tired include the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat and the Base Coat with Kensington Caviar. I prefer the Nailkale Superfood Base Coat because it’s nourishing and doesn’t tint the nails. It has kale to strengthen the nails and keratin to help harden and stimulate growth. This is what I attribute to having healthy looking nails. With base coats I think it’s important to not apply too much – if it’s too thick it doesn’t dry properly and then polish on top just sits there. The Base Coat with Kensington Caviar has been a long-time go-to as well, but it can get a bit thick with age and it also can tint the nails pink.
Formula X Base Coat has been my favorite for a long time. Unfortunately it looks like the line has been pulled from Sephora. If you visit your store you may see a bunch of items on clearance. So stock up if you see any favorites there.
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat has never really been a favorite because it has major shrinkage with brands like Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, YSL and pretty much all the brands I use. It does work well with OPI, Essie and Louboutin though and since it dries quickly I like the way it works and looks. Your mileage may vary depending on what polish you use. If you find that Chanel or Dior gets really quick tip wear on you, check what top coat you’re using. Some formulas are not compatible with 5 free formulas and cause shrinkage which pulls back the polish from the ends like tips or cuticles.
Chanel Le Gel Coat is a newer top coat that Chanel launched. It wears really well and gives the nails a cushiony shine. I love this with Chanel polishes and it also works well with Dior.
Louboutin Loubi Primer and Loubi Gloss is one of the best nail care duos I’ve used. The price point is high and this comes as a duo. The primer keeps nails from yellowing and helps to hydrate them well. The top coat gives one of the best high-gloss shines I’ve ever seen and keeps polish lasting long for up to 7 days for me. It’s not the fastest drying duo but well worth the extra time it takes.
The extras that make a huge difference in hand care rounded up below:
L’Occitane makes some of my favorite hand creams, they’re great for dry skin and I love the fun packaging. For those with sensitive noses the Shea Butter is the best and most gentle. It has a very natural smelling scent that is soothing.
Molton Brown makes my favorite scented hand creams, they have a lightweight texture so they’re not greasy and I love their scents. Pink Pepperpod and Coco Sandalwood are my favorites but really all the options are great.
Kiehl’s introduced scented hand creams in a Limited-Edition Trio this year, you can buy them separately in a larger size, but the minis are exclusive to Neiman Marcus (while supplies last). The Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is the unscented version and I also really like it. I don’t have one at the moment because my husband uses it as well and we go through them frequently.
Molton Brown Alba White Truffle Hand Treatment and Scrub are amazing for a hand cream and scrub. I’ve written about this duo before and absolutely love it. I’ve never done a hand scrub before trying this. Over the holidays a year ago many of you mentioned you do regular hand scrubs and that it works wonders on your hands.
Dior Huile Abricot was interesting to me because it seemed to be less messy and easier to apply compared to most oils. It’s a great touch up for the cuticles and is super hydrating without getting messy. I really like it.
Two polish removers I swear by are Deborah Lippmann The Stripper and Zoya Remove +. If you find your nails peel it may be because you’re using harsh polish removers. Both of these are super gentle and good for sensitive nails. Amy from Cafe Makeup recommended the Zoya remover to me years ago and as her nails always look pristine I took her advice and am forever grateful for this discovery.
Chanel Le Coton is one of my favorite facial cottons, it’s bit spendy to use for polish remover but it soaks up a lot so you can use one square for one hand for lighter polishes. Facial Cotton review and comparison here.
Sephora Collection Cotton Rounds are great because they’re cheap and don’t leave fibers behind which can be super annoying when you need to get the nail surface completely clean. Love these and have have lost count of how many times I’ve ordered these.
The DIY Manicure
Step 2 is optional, let the fingers soak with warm water and bit of hand soap to soften the cuticles. I absolutely love the Molton Brown Hand Washes – they smell amazing, don’t dry out the skin and I love the packaging.
A few personal notes on nail care. I’m not a manicurist or nail professional but based on my experience I think the only way to avoid breakage is to keep nails on the shorter side. I do believe there are a lot of nail strengtheners and sometimes nail hardness depends on diet and health, but no matter what I do I can’t avoid breakage when they get long. For me playing frisbee always breaks my nails. On tip wear your mileage will vary depending on hand activity and nail length. The longer the nails the easier it is for the tips to come in contact with things like a keyboard or anything else you touch and therefore they get more wear than shorter nails. If you have broken chips, hang nails, cuts or any issue I highly recommend that you try to get them fixed by a professional manicurist – the few visits to get them to a healthy state is well worth the splurge. Also depending on hand or foot activities a salon can work wonders. I did ballet from the time I was 7 years old until 18 and my feet were badly calloused for years. I didn’t think there was anything I could do to get them fixed to a normal state. I did not get my first mani or pedi until I was 21 and was amazed at how much it improved my feet. It took about a year of regular pedicures every other week or so to get them into a presentable state.
Also a note on gel nails, I’ve never had my nails with gels so I can’t give any advice or input on those.
An extra step that I just started doing is masking my hands. I used on a few occasions the Glamglow Thirsty Mud Mask and SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on hands and afterwards it was like years had been lifted. I don’t know that I have the patience to do this on a regular basis but on super dry skin days with the dry weather this helped a lot.
I hope you found this roundup helpful! With nail care there are so many options to try – the fancy packaging and pretty bottles are always so tempting at the store. I get overwhelmed at Ulta and whip out my phone to look for online reviews, realize it’s going to take too much time to research and end up sticking with what I’ve tried and loved.
If you have any favorites, tips or tricks please share in the comments! My advice is practice makes perfect! It does take time and there were many times in the beginning I just gave up and ended up going to my salon because it would be faster and more efficient for them to take 40 minutes to an hour to do them rather than try to finish myself. I gave up many many times. Eventually I got better and can do both hands easily at home on my own. I still get professional manicures when time allows. I would say over the past year for reference that the vast majority of the nail polish reviews I did were done on my own. Ballpark figure is over 80% of the nail swatches were done on my own.
Press samples include the Molton Brown Alba White Truffle duo and Louboutin Loubi Nail Kit.
I cannot believe the first month of 2017 has come and gone – I feel like the last few weeks have been a blur! I hope each of you have had a great start to the new year. In the beauty world I feel like things have been all about lips and highlighters. It appears the liquid lipstick trend is here to stay for quite some time. I still have my battle of the liquid lipstick post coming soon – with new launches almost weekly it seems like there’s more to test and try out. I’ve put a cut-off for testing though – I have two more detailed reviews to post before the official roundup. Today I have a roundup of the best and worst in beauty testing for January even though many of these have been put to the test for more than a month. Sometimes with products you know by the second or third use that a particular item just won’t work. Other items take a bit more testing to decide. By popular request here is my first Hits and Misses post of the year. We’ll start off with the hits.
January Favorites – Makeup
This month’s favorite items and discoveries include:
MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium Plus is something I finally tried and can’t believe it took me so long, it gives the skin a nice soft diffused look, it removes shine without looking heavy or overly matte and the best thing about this one is the color selection which I think is pretty good (shown on the skin here and also worn here)
Diorskin Nude Air Glow Powder in 002 Freshlight (shown on the face here) has been my go-to soft bronzer shade for the past few months, it has the perfect amount of warmth and has a sheer but buildable finish that works for my winter skintone color right now
Chanel Joues Contraste in Elegance (review here) is my perfect everyday beige blush, it goes with everything and adds life to the face without looking too dark or orange
Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara is one that took me years to try because I tried a mini and thought it literally was the worst thing ever. Based on raves of a few friends who swore it was THE best thing in mascara I decided to order one and was blown away. They assured me the full size was better than the minis and they were right. I don’t know that I’ll repurchase this because even I have limits when it comes to expensive items. At a whopping $72 I don’t know that I can say it’s worth it but this mascara is really good. It lengthens, volumizes, holds curl, doesn’t smudge and doesn’t look crunchy. It’s supposed to have lash-growth ingredients but I haven’t used it long enough to see results.
Chanel Le Rouge Crayon de Couleur (c/o, all shades swatched here) are my favorite lip launch of the year so far, I love a good glossy lip and these have a feel and look like the Rouge Coco Shines but with a lot more pigment
Dior Addict Lip Glow is something that is almost always in my purse these days (review of all shades here), my most-worn shade is either Lilac or Coral, the new Berry color (c/o) is a really pretty one too
I’ve found myself reaching a lot for the Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate and the Midnight Recovery Concentrate for evenings, both feel just so amazing on the skin giving it just the right amount of hydration, it’s brightened the skin and makes it feel healthier and smoother, if you don’t want to splurge on the full sizes you may want to consider the Day to Night Set which has miniatures of six items at a value price, alternatively if you visit you local Kiehl’s store they usually have samples so ask if they have these available (making a purchase will usually make it easier to get a couple samples)
Bioderma Sensibio was mentioned in my 2016 favorites, I use this as a toner and it’s just perfect for my sensitive skin, it leaves the skin feeling refreshed and clean, it has helped calm and comfort the skin, especially since I’m prone to flare ups or sensitivity, I have both the 250 and 100 ml versions (one I took with me on travel), can’t rave about this enough
Chanel La Solution 10 de Chanel (c/o) is another good gentle moisturizer for sensitive skin, I’ve been reaching for this a lot, it hydrates without feeling greasy and gives relief for dry skin without being heavy, I will definitely repurchase once this is used up
Tatcha The Essence (c/o) is something I got a mini of with an order (I had a promo code) and fell in love with it immediately, I discussed essence a few posts back and many of you gave me some really good feedback on what to try! I’m currently testing three, this one from Tatcha and the SK-II Genoptics Aura Essence and Genoptics Spot Essence (c/o). It’s going to take me several weeks to see which one is truly the best, but I noticed results immediately from the Tatcha Essence. It softens the skin without feeling heavy or leaving a film on the skin like some other essence or serums do. It’s watery but not too runny so it’s easy to apply. It does make my moisturizer absorb into the skin better. As one who doesn’t like things that feel heavy on the skin I absolutely love this one.
Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser is something I ordered the day it launched online at Sephora. By the time this post is going live I’ve already used up one full tube 85% of the way and the one shown is a backup. I don’t have acne but I do experience breakouts and earlier this month I started breaking out around the chin and cheeks from a combination of getting really sick and experiencing a high level of stress. Using this helped clear up the skin without drying it out. It has sulfur which targets acne and blemishes. Based on the formula I don’t think it’s going to be for everyone, but I’ve tried every single one of Kate Somerville’s cleansers and her line is the one I keep replenishing for cleansers. I can use this daily without it drying out my skin and love it. That being said I still love her Gentle Daily Wash for times when I don’t have skin issues.
Four items that did not work for me include:
Burberry Liquid Lip Velvet (review here) did not work for me because the color selection just wasn’t flattering for my olive skin tone, even the neutrals did not work. Shades were either too light or too dark, colors lacked life and washed out my complexion. Formula-wise they were ok, but none of the colors worked for me leading me to call these a miss.
Make Up For Ever Water Blend Foundation is something I bought months ago back in early fall. I had high hopes as it looked amazing on a few of my fellow blogger friends. I mixed two shades in Y315 and Y405 to get a good match although the product is so sheer an exact color match isn’t really necessary. This was a miss for me because it caused my skin to become irritated which I suspect is from the fragrance. Tiny bumps surfaced all over my cheeks and since I test a lot of skincare and foundations, this took months of testing to make sure this was the culprit and not something else. Formula also felt sticky because of the gel-like texture. Coverage was not enough for me. This was a huge let-down since I consider the Ultra HD Invisible Cover Stick and Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation to be in my top picks for foundation.
Glamglow PLUMPRAGEOUS Nudes got me based on their social media marketing. As a nude lip lover I just couldn’t resist and ordered 4 online sight unseen. The colors looked SO perfect! These come with a plastic spatula applicator which I found did not apply product evenly or easily. Second these are THE most painful lip plumping products I’ve ever tested – they burned my lips and if a tiny bit touched my tongue, a spicy tingle sensation went shooting to the back of my mouth. I tested two on separate occasions and the most I could tolerate was 45 minutes on the lips before I had to wipe it off and give the lips a thorough cleanse. I returned 3 of the 4. The one shown is going to a friend who is curious about this and doesn’t mind a tingle.
Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof Mascara was an impulse buy. The packaging has written on it a few statements like 1,944% more volume, 97% saw intense volume and length, 94% said this mascara stays put all day. There is an asterisk that says based on consumer study results. I did not research how many people tested this or were part of it, but at $23 it seemed worth a try. I know some mascaras take a few pumps or uses to get going so I gave this one 6 tries on 6 separate occasions. It does add volume and length and the color is a rich deep black. However the clumps were seriously horrible with this one. Layering was an absolute no for me. It made my lashes look super spidery and when I tried to separate or comb them out the mascara just looked even more clumpy and made the lashes stick together. It’s also extremely difficult to remove.
That’s wraps it up for January’s beauty hits and misses! I’d love to hear about yours as well – so please feel free to share them in the comments. If you have any feedback about the items I tried let me know.
P.S. A number of you have sent me e-mails saying you weren’t getting the email newsletters anymore. I’ve re-added the subscribe feature on the sidebar at the top of the page (if you’re on a desktop computer). Let me know if you have any issues – if you enter your email address you’ll be sent a verification link and should be good to go!