As I finish off beauty products, I toss the empty containers into a basket under my bathroom sink. When the basket fills up, I dump out the contents, inventory the goods, and type up a big ol’ blog post to share my thoughts on what each product does, if/why I loved it, and whether or not I’d repurchase.
A few notes before we dive in:
- Everyone budgets and prioritizes spending differently. I spend the biggest chunk of my discretionary income on beauty products; namely, luxury skin care and makeup. When I turned 30, I stepped up my skin care game with the hopes that I could stave off cosmetic procedures and treatments for as long as possible, so I think of skin care as a worthwhile investment. With that said, I’m all for doing whatever you want to your face and body; if clinical interventions work for you, do what makes you look and feel your best!
- You don’t need to spend big bucks to find effective skin care products; brands like The Ordinary and Pixi Skintreats (available at Target) make high-quality products that yield big results at affordable prices. There’s also a huge market for Asian skin care products that offer premium ingredients for every budget. I haven’t ventured into it yet, but there’s tons of helpful resources online to get you started.
- I purchased all of these products myself; nothing is sponsored or comped in this post. Before I drop any cash a skin care product, I do my research and comb through reviews to make sure it’s worth the splurge. Caroline Hirons, Gothamista, The Anna Edit and A Model Recommends are all beauty bloggers I trust for honest and reliable reviews, and Beautypedia is a helpful resource as well. (I’m not afraid to whip out my phone and search ingredients/reviews while standing in Sephora.)
My last skin care empties post was almost a year ago, and I really ramped up my routine in the last 12 months, so this is a long one, y’all! I broke it all down into categories to make things easier to navigate.
Cleansers + Makeup Removers
Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm :: A total luxury splurge, but one of my favorite cleansers of all time; I polished off two big jars in the last 12 months. This nourishing balm melts into a rich oil on contact with skin, removing every stitch of makeup while enveloping you in a cloud of lovely aromatherapy. Gah, I love it. I’m currently testing a few new cleansers so I haven’t repurchased the moringa cleansing balm yet, but I miss it every night in my skin care routine.
Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel :: Anna and Caroline both raved about this cleanser, so I bought it on their recommendations. I liked it! This pink gel cleanser has a subtle rose fragrance — the texture and scent remind me of Smith’s Rosebud Salve (love that stuff) — and melts into an oil on the skin. It’s a really gentle cleanser that’s enjoyable to use, but I don’t plan to repurchase anytime soon.
Biologique Recherche Lait U Cleansing Milk :: I used this rich cleanser in the evening as a second cleanse, or in the morning if my skin felt dehydrated. I didn’t reach for it very often, and only finished it because the expiration was looming and I didn’t want it to go to waste. It’s a lovely thick cream cleanser (similar to a cold cream) but I don’t miss it in my routine so I won’t repurchase.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm :: This is a repeat offender from my last skin care empties post; it’s a clean beauty product I love to restock. Green Clean is one of my favorite makeup removers: it makes quick work of dissolving face and eye products; and when you remove it with a warm washcloth your skin feels clean, hydrated and balanced. My only complaint about this product is that it doesn’t come in a bigger tub; I find I go through it pretty quickly with nightly use.
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm :: Another repeat offender! I always keep this cleansing balm in stock to use as a first cleanse on heavy makeup days. Like the Farmacy Green Clean, it easily removes even the most stubborn makeup without drying or stripping the skin, but I seem to get more mileage from Take the Day Off. I’ve lost count of how many tubs I purchased over the years, and as long as they keep makin’ it, I’ll keep buyin’ it.
Toners + Facial Mists
Biologique Recherche ‘Lotion P50’ :: If I had to pick ONE skin care treatment that I wouldn’t want to live without, it would be this toner. I’ve used it consistently for more than a year, and it’s worth every penny. P50 contains a mix of exfoliating AHA and BHA acids that work magic: the formula hydrates, balances the skin’s pH, and removes complexion-dulling buildup from the skin’s surface. After cleansing in the evening, I press this toner into my skin with a super-soft facial cotton before applying serums and moisturizers. I skip it on the nights I use retinol or my nighttime acid serum. (Never mix acids. You may burn your skin and/or cause major irritation. I alternate my PM treatments throughout the week so I get all the active ingredient benefits without freaking out my skin.) You may find the original Lotion P50 to be too strong if it’s your first time using an AHA or BHA; if you have questions or concerns about skin sensitivity, the folks at Rescue Spa are happy to chat with you to help you find the perfect BR toner for your skin type. A side note: I haven’t tried it myself, but I hear Tarte’s new Knockout Tingling Treatment has a similar formula at a lower price point, and it’s conveniently available at Sephora.
Pixi Glow Tonic To-Go :: I think these pre-soaked glycolic pads are a great introduction to exfoliating acids. I went through two tubs while my skin adjusted to AHAs, but I recently swapped them for a stronger glycolic toner from The Ordinary. I may repurchase these sometime down the road, but I highly recommend them either way.
Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist :: I’m on a big facial mist kick right now. I like to spritz them on after cleansing in the morning to give my skin a shot of hydration and prep it for the serum, moisturizer and SPF that come next in my routine. I bought the Tatcha skin mist after my friend, Perry, and several beauty bloggers raved about it and I think it’s worth all the hype. I also loved it as a finishing spray for my makeup; a good spray of the super-fine mist blends all my powders into my foundation for a seamless, natural-looking finish. The only problem: I get real spray-happy with face mists, and I killed an entire bottle in less than a month. Before I repurchase, I’m going to try the Biossance Squalane + Micronutrient Fine Mist because it contains 1.18 ounces more and costs $16 less (I’ll report back on this one) but I’m sure the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist will make its way back onto my counter sooner than later.
Caudalie Beauty Elixir :: I have mini bottles of this facial mist stashed everywhere. They’re always in the aisle of temptation in Sephora’s checkout line, and I can’t stop hoarding them. I think of it like therapy in a bottle: the rose, mint and rosemary fragrance is a lovely mood booster, and a few quick spritzes in the afternoon freshens my makeup and gives me an attitude adjustment (ha!). If you want a less expensive alternative, try an organic rose water facial mist.
Treatments + Serums
Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel :: I love this clean eye treatment. I use a pearl-sized drop in the AM and PM all around my eyes (and sometimes on my lips) and it reduces puffiness, improves dark circles, and keeps my skin hydrated to help minimize the look of fine lines and texture. The gel formula sinks right into the skin and never feels heavy or greasy. Quick tip: I mix a teeny-tiny drop of it into my concealer on the back of my hand, and warm it up with a finger before I apply it to my under-eyes for an extra boost of moisture and glow. I purchased my second bottle before the first ran out because I didn’t want to go a day without it.
First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy :: This is a luminous pink-hued eye cream that brightens the eye area while treating it to some anti-aging ingredients. I enjoyed using it, but once I discovered the Biossance I didn’t look back. I used about three-quarters of the tube before it expired, and I don’t plan to repurchase. (If you’re looking for an under-eye brightener to help camouflage dark circles, I love this $12 peach correction concentrate from Pixi.)
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum :: Another repeat offender from my last empties post, and a product I consistently repurchase every 3-4 months. I use this antioxidant vitamin-C serum every day from my face to my chest to brighten, help diminish dark spots, and shield my skin from pollution and the elements. My only gripe with this product is it oxidizes well before the 6-month expiration, but since I use it liberally I don’t have much waste. I haven’t bothered trying any other vitamin-C products because I love this one so much, but if you’re looking for something less expensive but equally effective, Gothamista rounded up her favorites in this video. (I’m thinking of trying this $12 anti-spot essence on her recommendation; she mentioned that it remains stable for a long time.)
Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen :: We know how much I love this stuff; I raved about it at least three times in recent posts. It lasted about 3 months with almost daily use, and I repurchased my second bottle before the first was empty. (A tip: when I couldn’t get any more product out of the tube, I snipped off the top corners to squeeze out any excess, then cut the tube in half to reach all the product that settled around the base and wouldn’t come out. This salvaged enough product to last 4-5 days!)
Moisturizers + Oils
Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb :: I’m on my third jar of this moisturizer; it’s my go-to nighttime skin-quencher. It’s the last step in my evening routine to help seal in all my treatments and serums. If you have dry or dehydrated skin, you’ll love this stuff: it’s intensely moisturizing but isn’t greasy; and it has a unique texture that sinks right into the skin. It even wears well under makeup if you want to use it in the morning, but I prefer something lighter in the AM like the Kate Somerville Nourish moisturizer (another product I always restock).
Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel :: This was one of the first Drunk Elephant products I purchased in a discovery kit with minis of the C-Firma and T.L.C. serums. While that kit sparked my love of the serums, I wasn’t crazy about this moisturizer. It would probably be ideal for oily skin types, but it just didn’t give my dry skin enough hydration. I finished it up before it expired so I wouldn’t waste it, but I wouldn’t purchase it again. (The Drunk Elephant marula oil, on the other hand, is heaven in a bottle.)
Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre :: This used to be a staple for me and I still think it’s a lovely moisturizer and prep-step for makeup, but now I want my moisturizer to pack some kind of extra muscle; give me some anti-aging ingredients, please and thank you. If you’re in your 20s, this is definitely worth a try, but I think my Embryolisse Lait-Creme days are behind me.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum :: Guys, this is the wildest skin care purchase I ever made. Goop sells it, so you know it’s crazy expensive. When I was deep into skin care blogs and vlogs last year, this “do-it-all” oil was everywhere and promised to completely transform the skin. So I bought it… and it was nice… but I’m not sure it accomplished anything that a cheaper beauty oil couldn’t. I couldn’t use it during the day because, 1.) I found the fragrance overpowering, 2.) it turned my face into a slip-and-slide for makeup, and 3.) it creeped into my eyes throughout the day and blurred my contacts. So I used it in the evenings before I went to bed, and again… it was nice. But I definitely won’t repurchase it; there are plenty of great beauty oils out there that will get the job done for far less cash. (I’ll round up my favorites in another post.)
Are you still here?! I told you this was a long one. Here’s a reward for letting me have your eyeballs for so long: Sephora’s Beauty Insider Appreciation Sale kicks off this weekend! It’s the perfect time to try new skin care and makeup, or stock up on your favorites. I definitely plan take advantage of the sale to restock some of these empties. Rouge members get early access starting August 24th, with 20% off using the code YESROUGE; then from August 30th to September 3rd, VIB members get 15% with the code YESVIB and Beauty Insiders get 10% off with the code YESINSIDER. Check out this Allure post for details and exclusions.