Product Review: Sunday Riley C.E.O.

Repurchase? No.

Sunday Riley CEO

Hi lovelies!  So let me preface this by saying I usually do not post reviews so quickly after incorporating a new product into my routine, but given what a heavyweight SUNDAY RILEY is and the buzz that has been created for this new product I figured I’d post an initial review and update in a month’s time.  THERE ARE GAPS IN THIS REVIEW SO BE PATIENT!  WILL BE UPDATING OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS!

Now on to the product!  Obviously I’m reviewing Sunday Riley’s new moisturizer, the C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT Protect + Repair Moisturizer.  I have used this a few times now, and generally like it so far.  Let’s get into the nitty gritty!

Company’s claims…

The moisturizer’s back side reads:

“Lusciously hydrating and scientifically advanced, CEO is the smart, moisturizing guru for your thirsty skin.  Whipped and luminizing, CEO provides deep, soothing, (but never greasy) moisturization while its technologically advanced formula expertly fights the 5 visible signs of environmental and micropollution-induced skin damage: sensitivity, dehydration, dullness, uneven tone, and premature lines and wrinkles.  With 5% THD Ascorbate (the gold standard of Vitamin C: exceptionally powerful, yet less irritating than other forms of Vitamin C), blended with protective, anti-pollution exopolysaccharides and refining lime pearl extract.”

The instructions indicate the moisturizer should be used daily morning and/or night.  Below you will see Sephora’s crib sheet on the product.

Sephora Sunday Riley CEO

Some things to notice are that Sephora recommends this product for every skin type–I’ll give you my thoughts on that later.  Also, for the green beauty lovers out there or the ingredient-conscious, no parabens, sulfates, or phthalates so, good news!

First impressions…

I always have to do a sniff test on new products as anything too perfumed will anger the allergy beast within and lead to a raging headache, so smell-wise it’s your basic citrus scent.  Some have described it as a distinctly artificial orange scent, which I can understand, but that does not bother me too much.  When applied to my skin, the scent dissipates fairly quickly and I have had no issues with the scent from an allergy standpoint.  My skin is also on the sensitive/reactive side, so sometimes essential oils or scents can be problematic, but again, no issues so far!

The texture is certainly a much richer one compared to Sunday’s original moisturizer, Tidal.  I do still find that it melts into the skin well and can be worn under makeup which is a must for me as I like to use antioxidants during the day.  Upon first inspection it appeared that there was a bit of oil sitting on the top of the jar, but once I dove in I realized the product had just settled, no oil.  On the product container it does say “never greasy” and I have to say that I think this product would be greasy on oilier skin types, as it has an oily, waxy consistency.

As for the feel on the fingers and skin it is creamy, and has a slightly cooling effect when applied to my face.  I find I don’t need much for a full face application, just a small dollop.


The full ingredient list is below.

Sunday Riley CEO Ingredients

And here is the breakdown:

  1. Water: Well, this will take a while.  Water…just kidding.  You got this.
  2. Squalane: Squalane acts as a lubricant and a fantastic moisturizer.  Squalane replenishes skin lipids and softens and smoothes the skin.  Human sebum is actually made up of 25% squalane.  Can be acquired from shark liver oil, other natural oils, plant sources, or synthetically manufactured.  All in all, a great ingredient!
  3. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C): This is an antioxidant that inhibits lipid oxidation and protects from free-radical damage.  This form of Vit C can also improve and maintain the skin’s overall condition.  Manufacturers state that Vitamin C can lessen UV damage and stimulate collagen, and some studies have indicated the possibility that this this form of Vit C can promote a more even skin tone by inhibiting melanin (pigment) production.  This form of Vitamin C is a stable ester that is oil-soluble.  To explain the benefits of this, I have to first explain that Vitamin C is typically water-soluble and unable to make it through the lipid-rich skin barrier to reach the dermis where it can fulfill its purpose.  Making it an ester that is oil-soluble keeps the product from sitting on your skin’s surface and makes the formulation less susceptible to degradation.  TA is generally less irritating than ascorbic acid.
  4. Dicaprylyl Carbonate: Dicaprylyl Carbonate is a di-ester of carbonic acid and caprylyl alcohol and serves as a skin-conditioning agent.
  5. C10-18 Triglycerides: C10-18 Triglycerids is a trimester of glycerin and a mixture of normal and branched chain C10-18 fatty acids.  The combination of many solid fats and liquid oils is responsible for giving cosmetic formulations water-binding and thickening abilities.  This compound conditions the skin but is occlusive.  Red flag here–I know that not ALL occlusive products are bad, but I try to stay away from them as I am prone to congestion and the occasional breakout.
  6. PEG-8 Beeswax:  Made from the free fatty acids of beeswax, this forms a stable oil-in-water emulsion containing a high concentration of oil phase and lipophilic (combines with or dissolves in lipids and fats) active ingredients.  Used in creams, lotions, ointments, pomades, emulsions, cold creams, and salves.
  7. Hydrogrenated Vegetable Oil: Produced by (and I know this is shocking) the hydrogenation of vegetable oil.  This ingredient acts as a skin-conditioning agent and emollient.  Can be occlusive, again, not one of my favorite things. NOTE: Hydrogrenation is the charging with or combination with hydrogen.
  8. Tapioca Starch: Used as a thickening agent and can be soothing.  Derived from cassava.
  9. PPG-12 SMDI Copolymer: A copolymer of saturated methylene diphenyldiisocyanate and PPG-12 monomers.  Acts as a film-former, hair conditioning agent and fixative, plasticizer, skin-conditioning agent, and emollient.  I don’t know if I like the idea of a “plasticizer” on my skin, but with more digging I found that this can also be used as an anti-irritant and stabilizer (could be good given the amount of Vitamin C, etc. in this product).  This can be used to control the release of ingredients like Vitamin C and AHAs to reduce the likelihood of irritation, and should not clog pores.  Okay, I’m pacified.
  10. Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate: An emulsifier, this can be found in products for sensitive skin, babies, and sun care.  Liking this ingredient!
  11. Jojoba Esters: Jojoba esters are emollients and skin-conditioning agents made from jojoba oil and jojoba wax.
  12. Cetyl Alcohol: This ingredient is quite versatile and is used as an emollient, an emulsifier, a thickener, a foam booster, or a stabilizer.  The ingredient is derived from coconut or palm oil, or can be synthetically manufactured.  Some sources indicate it is non-comedogenic, but the jury is still out.
  13. Sodium Acrylates Copolymer: A thickener and stabilizer.
  14. Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax: Polyglyceryl-3 beeswax is an emulsifier and a beeswax derivative.  It is an ester of beeswax with polyglycerin-3.
  15. Lecithin: Lecithin is a natural emollient, emulsifier, anti-oxidant, and spreading agent.  The ingredient is hydrophilic (attracts water).  Typically obtained from eggs and soybeans and found in all living organisms.
  16. Glycerin: Glycerin is present in all natural lipids (AKA fats) and can be derived from natural substances or synthetically manufactured. Glycerin is a humectant (meaning, it is used to keep things moist) used in moisturizers. It is especially useful as it is water-binding and can pull water from the air and help the skin to retain moisture. It should also be noted that glycerin is a substance naturally found in skin. Glycerin can also improve the spreading qualities of creams and lotions. Research has shown that glycerin, in combination with other ingredients is excellent for the replenishment of skin. A note about glycerin: although it has not been shown to cause allergies, it may be comedogenic and irritating to the mucous membrane in concentrated solutions.
  17. Microcitrus Australasica Fruit (Lime Pearl) Extract:  Lime pearl is a source of AHAs.  This ingredient gently exfoliates and provides a brighter and more even complexion.  A review panel has investigated the safety of this ingredient in skincare preparations and found that it should be safe for use when formulated correctly.
  18. Butylene Glycol: A solvent with good antimicrobial actions.  Enhances the preservative activity of parabens.  Also serves as a humectant and viscosity controller.  Can also be used to mask odor.
  19. Alteromonas Ferment Extract (Exopolysaccharides): This is a skin conditioner suitable for dry or damaged skin.  Also considered an anti-inflammatory.  Obtained through fermentation of Alteromonas macleodii (marine bacterium).  Loving this–I’m a sucker for anti-inflammatory ingredients!
  20. Phenoxyethanol: A preservative with fungicidal, bactericidal, insecticidal, and germicidal properties.  Has a low sensitizing factor in leave-on preparations.
  21. Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit (Kakadu Plum) Extract: This ingredient is an anti-oxidant with skin-bleaching properties that can be used in the treatment of acne.  The constituents include vitamin C, phenolic compounds, anthocyanin, and amino acids.
  22. Bisabolol: Another botanical used for anti-inflammatory purposes.  Also has soothing properties.  Derived from chamomile and/or yarrow.
  23. Chlorophenesin: A preservative with fungistatic and bactericidal properties.
  24. Caprylyl Glycol: Works in concert with phenoxyethanol as an anti-microbial.  An emollient with moisturizing and stabilizing properties.
  25. Polymethylsilsesquioxane: A silicone ingredient that is common in cosmetics preparations.  Used as a film-former and to smooth, and also as an opacifying agent (makes the formulation opaque).
  26. Nylon-12: A bulking and opacifying agent that gives a good feel and elasticity to moisturizers.  Reduces oiliness. 
  27. Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Oil: This one is tough.  It appears that the safety of this ingredient in cosmetic preparations is still up for debate.  I’m currently reading the report of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review on the topic, but their original panel was slated to discuss citrus oils and their uses in general and so parsing apart the information pertaining to this particular ingredient is going to take some time.  I’l be back with more!
  28. Citric Acid: Boasts astringent and anti-oxidant properties.  Can be used as a product stabilizer, pH adjuster, or preservative with a low-sensitizing potential.  Not usually irritating to normal skin, but can cause burning and redness when applied to inflamed or chapped skin.  Derived from citrus fruit.
  29. Sodium Phytate: Boosts a product’s stability.
  30. Tocopherol: AKA Vitamin E.  An antioxidant obtained by vacuum distillation of edible vegetable oils.  Largely considered the most important oil-soluble antioxidant and radical scavenger.  Can also act as a photoprotectant and help protect the cellular membrane from free-radical damage.  Protects against oxidation.
  31. Sodium Hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is used as a humectant to increase moisture in the skin and also as an emulsifier. Sodium hyaluronate is capable of penetrating the skin. This compound can bind 1,800 times its own weight in water. Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid and is the most commonly used form of hyaluronic acid.
  32. Fragrance: Do NOT love this.  Fragrance and my skin don’t typically get on, and in most cases I don’t see any use for it.  Still, been doing fine so I’ll forgive them this lapse.
  33. Rosa Centifolia Flower Wax: A wax obtained from the flower of the Rosa centifolia.  Acts as a skin-protecting agent.
  34. Rosa Damascena Flower Wax: A wax obtained from the flower of Rosa damascena.  Used as a fragrance and masking agent.  Some say it acts as a protector by creating a light, breathable barrier on the skin.
  35. Alcohol Denat (found in botanical extracts): Denatured alcohol.  Used in all kinds of personal care products as an anti-foaming agent, an astringent, a solvent, and to decrease viscosity.  Can also be used as an anti-microbial.  There is some concern with organ system toxicity (just like drinking too much alcohol).  I don’t love the idea of alcohol in my skincare products, but, it’s low on the ingredient list so I’ll push on.
  36. Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: This is an emollient which aids in the spreading of formulations.  It has also been shown to promote penetration without leaving an oily feeling on the skin.  A skin-conditioning agent.  Made from coconut oil.
  37. Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract: Contains potent antioxidant properties and has also been seen to have a soothing effect on the skin.
  38. Citrus Junos Fruit (Yuzu) Extract: Primarily used as a scent in fragrance and bath products.  Gaining popularity as an active ingredient touting energizing, toning, and brightening properties.
  39. Lippia Citriodora Flower (Lemon Verbena Extract): Little scientific information on this ingredient as well so I will have to dig deeper over the next few days.  I’ll let you all know what I find!
  40. Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit: Full of antioxidants and fatty acids.  Protects skin from environmental aggressors and reduces the appearance of aging.
  41. Butyrospermum Parkil (Shea) Butter Extract: Obtained from the nut kernels of the Shea tree.  Rich in saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.  Good source of carotene.  High content of antioxidant Vitamin E.  Protects the skin against drying, soothes irritations, and helps support skin elasticity.
  42. Rosa Canina Fruit (Rosehips) Extract: High in vitamins A and C.  Has a toning effect on the skin.  Soothing and astringent, and used to calm skin irritations.
  43. Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Seed Extract: An extract of the seeds of the evening primrose.  Known as a natural anti-inflammatory.  Used to soothe skin dryness, itchiness, and redness.
  44. Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Oolong Tea): An extract of black tea, this is rich in antioxidants and tannins with toning, skin-soothing, and fortifying properties.

Final verdict…

I’m certainly enjoying this product and would recommend it if you’re in the market for a moisturizer + something added (in this case, antioxidants).  While I’m not ready to chuck out the rest of my moisturizers quite yet, this will definitely continue in my rotation.  I’ll also be back in a month or so to update you all on my progress!

Skin Types:

  • Dry/dehydrated–severely dry skin may require layering with other moisturizing products.
  • Normal–should be more than enough moisture for day-to-day use.
  • Oily–depends on the extent of the oiliness and whether or not it is controlled with the use of other products.  Certainly an option for nighttime if you don’t mind that it does contain some occlusive ingredients.


  • Day or night moisturizer.
  • Layered with other Vitamin C products–use caution when doing this as Vitamin C is NOT like sunscreen, i.e., layering Vit C products of varying strengths does have a cumulative effect (5+5 does equal 10 in this case).

Step in Routine:

  • Last or next to last, given its consistency.
  • Could be used prior to an oil or sleeping mask for drier skin types.

CAUTION: As noted in the ingredient list there are some ingredients included which have been known to cause burning and/or irritation to cracked, chapped, or inflamed skin.


I was wrong.  With continued use I have found this moisturizer to be relatively lackluster.

I do not want to call it a bad moisturizer, but I don’t think it’s worth the price tag.  I do appreciate a moisturizer that has added ingredients to pack an extra punch, but I’m not sure if Vitamin C is the best ingredient to be included in a moisturizer.  I find that I get better results with a serum formulation (right now I’m using the Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Booster during the day).  And, thanks to the power of suggestion, I’ve been noticing the waxy texture of the cream more and more with continued use.  All of this coupled with the jar packaging that is unlikely to keep notoriously unstable Vitamin C for very long, I have decided not to repurchase.  It is not such a sever miss that I will be binning, because you all know I can’t stand waste, but not a rebuy.

Product Review: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

Repurchase? No.

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution

The Ordinary is a brand under the Deciem umbrella, and is their cheapest skincare line.  All of the products in the line are under $20, with most well under that mark.  The brand’s Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is an eye treatment, packaged in their characteristic brown dropper bottle with the paired down white label.  The product is purported to improve the appearance of puffiness and darkness in the eye area (more on this later).

Company’s claims…

The company, like so many, references independent studies but does not provide links to them.  See for yourself below.


The Ordinary Caffeine Claims


First impressions…

The product is truly a serum consistency–quite liquid, and therefore should be applied prior to any eye creams.  For this same reason it also seems to take a few minutes to sink into the skin.

After my first trial run I found that I needed a very small amount, about a pea sized dot on the palm of my hand.


Below is the official ingredients list from The Ordinary’s website.  We’ll tackle the list one by one.

The Ordinary Caffeine Ingredients

  1. Water: I’ll trust you all know what this is.
  2. Caffeine: Caffeine has a lipolytic effect on fatty cells–this means that it can break down lipids and release fatty acids.  Caffeine also has draining properties.  These two abilities make caffeine ideal for tightening and firming skin.  The draining properties are also purported to aid in the draining of blockages that can contribute to puffiness and darkness.  Unfortunately, research results are mixed at best and have fairly conclusively shown that caffeine has no effect on puffiness in the eye area.  Caffeine may, however, have soothing and antioxidant properties in the face of UV exposure.  There is also some research that caffeine can help improve the look of redness due to its constricting effects.
  3. Propanediol: Propanediol is a glycol which can enhance the absorption of ingredients.  This solvent is often used in cosmetic formulations to increase viscosity.  For those of you interested in natural beauty, this can be naturally derived or synthetically manufactured so its inclusion doesn’t necessarily preclude a product from being all natural.  This ingredient is generally well-tolerated.
  4. Glycerin: Glycerin is present in all natural lipids (AKA fats) and can be derived from natural substances or synthetically manufactured.  Glycerin is a humectant (meaning, it is used to keep things moist) used in moisturizers.  It is especially useful as it is water-binding and can pull water from the air and help the skin to retain moisture.  It should also be noted that glycerin is a substance naturally found in skin.  Glycerin can also improve the spreading qualities of creams and lotions.  Research has shown that glycerin, in combination with other ingredients is excellent for the replenishment of skin.  A note about glycerin: although it has not been shown to cause allergies, it may be comedogenic and irritating to the mucous membrane in concentrated solutions.  I don’t believe that, in the quantity present in this formulation, that this should be an issue.
  5. Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide obtained from various plants (corn, potato, rice, etc.)  It is absorbent and skin conditioning.  Some preparations utilize Maltodextrin as a stabilizer or a film former.  This ingredient is very commonly used in cosmetic preparations.
  6. Epigallocatechin Gallate: This ingredient is an active of green tea that acts to soothe skin and provide antioxidant protection.  Some studies have shown that formulations containing this ingredient can help reduce sun damage.
  7. Sodium Hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is used as a humectant to increase moisture in the skin and also as an emulsifier.  Sodium hyaluronate is capable of penetrating the skin.  This compound can bind 1,800 times its own weight in water.  Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid and is the most commonly used form of hyaluronic acid.
  8. Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract: This is a plant-derived ingredient, as the name suggests, and functions to add moisture to preparations.  This compound acts as an emollient (soothes/softens/relaxes).  The soybean is rich in Vitamin E.  Soy extract serves as an antioxidant.  There is some evidence that this ingredient also delivers amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals into the body.  Typical uses of Glycine Soja Seed Extract include as a bulking agent, as a moisturizer, and as an emulsifier.
  9. Urea: Incorporated into cosmetics to moisturize, desquamate (basically, exfoliate or shed the outer layers of skin), and to act as an anti-microbial ingredient and a buffering (buffering is when the natural pH level of an ingredient is altered) ingredient.  It’s buffering properties come from its ability to regulate the hypo lipid mantle.  Urea is naturally found in healthy skin.  Urea is not a humectant, but rather a “true” moisturizer because it attracts and retains moisture in the corneun layer. Urea also facilitates exfoliation of keratinocytes; this is due to its ability to dissolve intercellular cement int he corneum layer.  Urea also enhances the penetration and absorption of other active ingredients.  Urea has been shown to relieve itching.  Urea has anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and deodorizing properties which also it to protect the skin’s surface against negative changes and help maintain healthy skin.  Studies have shown that urea does not induce photoallergy, phototoxicity, or sensitization.  The safest skincare concentration is between 2 and 8%.  Higher concentrations are unstable in skincare preparations and can cause irritation.  Acidic urea solutions can produce burning or stinging.
  10. Tocophersolan: This is a water-soluble form of Vitamin E that acts as an anti-oxidant.  This can also serve as a skin-conditioning agent.
  11. Hydroxyethylcellulose:  Obtained from wood pulp, hydroxyethylcellulose can be used as a gelling and thickening agent, as a protective colloid, as a binder, or as a stabilizer.
  12. Poloxamer 235: Poloxamers are surfactant polymers.  The higher the number, the more solid the consistency (can be found in liquid, paste, or solid form).
  13. Poloxamer 338: See above.
  14. Xanthan Gum: Also known as corn starch gum, this ingredient serves as a texturized, carrier agent, and gelling agent.  Xantham gum can also be used to stabilize and thicken formulations.  Produced through a process of fermentation of carbohydrate and Xanthomonas campestris.
  15. Lactic Acid: Also known as sodium lactate.  This is a multi-purpose ingredients used as a: preservative, exfoliant, moisturizer, and acidity provider.  Lactic acid is found in the skin as a component of its natural moisturizing factor.  Boasts a better water intake than glycerin.  Studies indicated an ability to increase water-retention capacity of the stratum corneum.  Studies have also shown that the pliability of the stratum corneum layer is closely related to the absorption of lactic acid;;the greater the amount of absorbed lactic acid, the more pliable the stratum corneum.  Continuous use of products containing 5-12% lactic acid provided a mild to moderate improvement in fine wrinkling and promoted softer, smoother skin.  Exfoliating properties can help in the process of removing excess pigment from the surface of the skin, as well as improving skin texture and feel.  Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid occurring in sour milk, beer, pickles, and foods made through a process of bacterial fermentation.  High concentrations are caustic.
  16. Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate:
  17. Butylene Glycol: A solvent with good antimicrobial actions.  Enhances the preservative activity of parabens.  Also serves as a humectant and viscosity controller.  Can also be used to mask odor.
  18. Ethoxydiglycol: This is a solvent for essential oils, fragrance materials, and terpene oils.  Often used in nail enamels but can be incorporated into skincare products as a humectant.  Non-irritating, non-penetrating, and non-comedogenic.
  19. Phenoxyethanol: A preservative with fungicidal, bactericidal, insecticidal, and germicidal properties.  Has a relatively low sensitizing factor in leave-on cosmetics.  Can be used in concentration of .5-2% and in combination with other preservatives.  Can also be used as a solvent.
  20. Chlorophenesin: A preservative with fungistatic and bactericidal properties.

Final verdict…

I am pleased with the formulation from a ingredient list standpoint–it contains all the makings of what you think might be a great eye product.  I also like that caffeine, the star ingredient, is 2nd in the ingredient list.  Unfortunately, as one of my favorite beauty gurus Lisa Eldridge has said, there has been precious little research into topical treatments for the eye area when compared to many other skincare concerns and as I mentioned in the ingredient breakdown there is little reliable evidence that caffeine has a pronounced effect on puffiness or dark circles.  Fortunately, Lisa thinks eye care is the next frontier to be conquered by skin researchers (god I hope she’s right)!

Immediate results were indiscernible and I found that from day 1 this product lacked the moisture my dry skin needs.  After several weeks of use, in concert with another more hydrating cream applied on top, I have seen no changes in my eye area.  I do have dark circles, which have not improved.  I cannot speak personally to the ability of the product to deal with puffiness as I do not suffer from this, but based on the ingredient list and the feeble evidence indicating caffeine can have an effect on puffiness, I would assume this product would be unable to treat puffiness and bags.

I will NOT be repurchasing this.

Due to my nature, I will probably continue to use until the bottle is empty (despite the low price tag), and of course will update you all if I do see any changes!  Would love to be proven wrong.  Have any of you had any experience with this product?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Product Review: Soap & Glory The Ultimelt

Repurchase? Yes.

The Ultimelt

Recently I noticed an IGer I follow, who has GORGEOUS skin btw (find her here), had been posting about Soap & Glory’s The Ultimelt Deep Purifying Hot Cloth Cleanser fairly regularly.  Given this endorsement, and the very reasonable price point of $14, I had to give it a try!

First impressions…

The cleanser has a delightful scent–natural and almost medicinal (for the Bobbi Brown fans out there, it’s reminiscent of some of her products).  It feels creamy, and is a non-foaming cleanser.

The Ultimelt Product Image

It comes in a 100 mL tube, with a cloth included.  There is a slight cooling/tingling sensation during the cleanse.  I would recommend using a makeup remover prior to using this cleanser as it will not remove more stubborn waterproof formulas easily.


You all know I’m a fiend for ingredients, so let’s work our way down the list:

The Ultimelt Ingredients

  1. Water: Pretty self-explanatory here.
  2. Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: This is an emollient which aids in the spreading of formulations.  It has also been shown to promote penetration without leaving an oily feeling on the skin.  A skin-conditioning agent.  Made from coconut oil.
  3. Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter: This is the scientific name for cocoa butter–one of the most widely used natural ingredients in skincare formulations.  This ingredient softens and lubricates skin, as well as offering temporary protection.  Cocoa butter also slows the loss of moisture by forming a protective barrier on the surface of the skin.  The caveat–this ingredient is considered comedogenic and can cause allergic reactions.  Fortunately, in this preparation, the ingredient isn’t left on the skin so I wouldn’t anticipate any issues (it hasn’t caused any for my reactive, somewhat sensitive skin).
  4. Glycerin: This humectant is used in moisturizers and other skincare preparations.  In fact, it is the second most used skincare ingredient, after water.  One benefit of glycerin is that it is water-binding and pulls moisture from he air, so it aids skin in moisture retention.  Glycerin also prevents the loss of moisture from skincare and cosmetic products so they do not dry out.  There is no evidence that glycerin can cause allergies, but it may be irritating in heavy concentrations–the concentration in this product and the fact that it does not remain on the skin make it harmless.
  5. Cetearyl Alcohol: This was is emulsifying and stabilizing, and can be used as an emollient.  Keep a formulation from separating into its oil and liquid components.  There is no evidence of potential irritation.
  6. Cetyl Esters: These are thickening agents to give body to emulsions and stabilize them.  Act as a lubricating ingredient on the skin.  There is no potential for irritation.
  7. Sorbitan Stearate: An emulsifier for water-in-oil creams and options, and a solubilized of essential oils in water.  No potential for irritation.
  8. Polysorbate 60: An emulsifier, wetting agent, and detergent emulsifier.  Widely used in cosmetic preparations.
  9. Synthetic Beeswax: This is a synthetic ingredient meant to be indistinguishable from the natural counterpart and is used in preparations to keep them from separating into their oil and liquid components.  Used in many types of cosmetics.
  10. Phenoxyethanol: A preservative with fungicidal, bactericidal, insecticidal, and germicidal properties.  Has a low sensitizing factor in leave-on preparations, so it should not pose any threat in this rinse-off formula.
  11. Caprylyl Glycol: Works in concert with phenoxyethanol as an anti-microbial.  An emollient with moisturizing and stabilizing properties.
  12. Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil: An emollient with soothing properties.
  13. Panthenol: A penetrating moisturizer that appears to stimulate cellular proliferation and aid in tissue repair.  Imparts a non-irritant, non-sensitizing, moisturizing, and conditioning feel and promotes normal keratinization and wound-healing.Enhances skin suppleness.  Non-comodegenic.
  14. Disodium EDTA: A preservative.
  15. Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil: A fragrance.  Considered an all-purpose oil (anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, balancing, energizing, soothing, and toning).  Works well on all skin types.  Effective when used for oily skin and in the treatment of acne, burns, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.  Claims to help relieve stress.  Considered non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing.
  16. Linalool: A fragrant component of lavender and coriander.  Serves to perfume, deodorize, and mask scents.
  17. Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Leaf/Twig Oil: Botanical.  Credited with soothing properties.  Has a more delicate fragrance than sweet orange for those sensitive to fragrance.
  18. Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil: Also known as rose geranium oil.  A volatile oil.  Masks odors.
  19. Pantolactone: A humectant.  Not known to cause irritation.
  20. Salvia Sclarea (Clary) Oil: Has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.  Used to refresh the skin.  May have aromatherapeutic properties such as promoting cell regeneration for normal, dry, and sensitive skin.

Final verdict…

No big red flags in the ingredient department.  Again, may require a pre-cleanse or the use of a remover for waterproof formulas.  For those with severe sensitivity, I might recommend a spot-test prior to all over use.

At $14, I would definitely recommend this cleanser to anyone looking for a relaxing, aromatherapeutic cleanse.

Primed and Pretty: My Favorite Primers

A primer is just what it sounds like, a bas coat that primes the skin for what follows.  A lot of people tend to neglect this step, but if you want an even, long-lasting makeup application it really is a must.  I have lots of favorites, but generally I like skincare based primers that impart a blurred effect to the skin.  Here are my must-haves at the moment…


I really can’t say enough about this primer.  The “50” in the title references the over 50 skin-loving ingredients contained in the formula.  The primer contains silk which imparts the most luxurious softness to the skin.  The serum also contains anti-aging peptides, collagen, niacin, essential lipid-rich oils, vitamins, extracts and botanicals.  The primer acts as an anti-aging serum, and should be applied OVER your moisturizer, in fact, I even apply it over my moisturizer in the evening.  A friend who has been using the serum swears using it twice a day has aided in the healing of her post-acne scarring and redness.  Just try it, you’ll die when you feel it on your skin!

IT Cosmetics No 50 Serum Primer


Another IT Cosmetics staple, this primer is a must for dry-skinned ladies.  It has an oil-like consistency and a divine scent.  The primer is anti-aging and contains caviar extract, hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, peptides, silk, vitamins A, C, & E, deep ocean water, organ, jojoba, and avocado oil.  A little heavier than the No. 50 Serum Primer, this is my go-to in the winter.  It does need a bit more time to absorb prior to foundation application.

IT Cosmetics Feel the Moment Primer



This cult favorite is mineral-based and water resistant and has a delightful satin finish.  This formula also helps to absorb excess oils, so those with oily or acne prone skin can use this for a bit of extra insurance.  As a bonus, it’s not as drying as powders for oil absorption!

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer



This SPF 40 primer comes in two shades, Roseé and Mimosa.  The Roseé shade is perfect for sallow or dull skin types, or those who wanted to brighten yellow-toned skin.  The Mimosa shade is the real standout, in my opinion, as it works to counteract redness, shadows, and unevenness in the skin.  The formula is oil-free, so oily skin types rejoice!

Chanel Le Blanc Rosee

Chanel Le Blanc Mimosa

Brush Belt Basics: Cleansing & Keeping your Brushes (+My Favorite Brushes)

My brush belt is a bit unwieldy–it’s ridiculous really.  But I can’t help myself.  As an artist I’ve always found that the mode of application and tool is just as important as the product itself!  A good brush should last years, if cared for properly.  Even working as an artist (i.e., my brushes are used and abused!) I have brushes that have been in my kit for 10 years; the key to keeping a brush this long is all about maintenance.


I clean my brushes after every single use.  I’ll spare you the horror stories, but clean brushes are a must for your skin and your health.  Everyday cleaning can be accomplished with a good brush cleanser spray, which can be purchased just about anywhere.  Personally, I love the IT Cosmetics Brush Love–a divine scent, and a thorough cleanse.  This cleanser is suitable for natural or synthetic brushes.

IT Cosmetics Brush Love

Other favorites are Dante and Bobbi Brown.

Once a week (I know, it seems excessive for personal brushes, but in the VERY LEAST once a month) I clean my brushes with soap and water.  There are several good brush cleansers on the market; these tend to be gentle and are formulated specifically for cleaning brushes.  But if you don’t want to shell out $10+ for a brush cleaner, I have found that Dawn Dish Soap works just as well.


Below you see an image of a makeup brush.  Before I detail the technique for cleaning your brushes, it will help to discuss the various parts of a a brush.

Makeup Brush

Obviously, the top of the brush consists of the bristles, which can be synthetic, natural, or a combination of the two.  Synthetic bristles are used for cream and liquid applications.  Natural bristles, which are porous just like our hair, should be used for powder formulations (using natural bristle brushes with liquids and creams is not advised as natural hair will absorb the product and start to smell).  Combination brushes can be used for either, but typically the manufacturer indicates the purpose of the brush.

The silver metal piece below the bristles is called the ferrule.  The ferrule is where the brush is connected, with glue.

Finally, the handle is typically made of wood or some other material.  If wood, it will most likely be painted and/or coated.


So, why the anatomy lesson?  Because the construction of the brush dictates how it should be cleaned.  When cleaning a brush with soap and water, you always want to keep the bristles pointed downward.  Place a bit of cleanser in the palm of your hand, and work the brush in circular motions through the cleanser.  Then rinse, still being careful to keep the bristle head of the brush pointed downward–if you tilt the brush upward soap and water will leak into the ferrule causing the glue to loosen and the brush to eventually begin shedding (and finally, fall apart).  I repeat this process with soap and water until the water runs clean and all the soap is rinsed from the brush.  Then allow the brushes to dry on a towel with the handle slightly elevated, again to keep water from leaking into the ferrule.


If you read the intro, detailing the cumbersome nature of my brush belt, you know this list might be quite long.  In general, when purchasing brushes, I like to research their construction.  For example, Chanel uses only solid wood handles, metal ferrules, and hand placed bristles, which means each individual bristle is placed to create the shape of the brush instead of placing and then cutting.  This is a particularly rigorous process, that most companies do not engage in, but leave it to Chanel.

You can find good brushes at a range of prices.  I have a mix of high and low end.  Sometimes I even pick up a brush or two at the craft store for special effects work.  Below is a list of my must-have brushes…

  1. IT Brushes for Ulta Live Beauty Fully All Over Powder Brush #211: This brush is just so delicious!  It’s large, soft brush head is perfect for all-over powder application.  The full, domed head is ideal for powders and will leave a light dusting suitable for setting makeup.  The brush features a weighted and tapered handle for easier application.  The bristles are synthetic, as are those on all the IT brushes.  The brush can be used on face and body, and it also feels divine on the skin!IT Brushes for Ulta All Over Powder Brush #211
  2. IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7: This brush is just too good.  It’s very similar to a Bobbi Brown dual-ended brush that is now unavailable (argh!).  The tightly packed bristles (on both ends) are perfect for foundation and concealer applications.  The brush is meant to give a beautiful airbrush finish to the skin.  The bristles are synthetic, and like all IT brushes it is suitable for even the most sensitive skin.  Be careful when cleansing this one–although I love dual-ended brushes, they need to be cleaned one end at a time to avoid water leaking into the ferrule.IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7
  3. Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush: This brush will always be a favorite.  It buffs liquids and powders into the skin with tightly-packed, synthetic bristles.  Bobbi says the brush is perfect for an “HD” finish, and she’s not lying.  The sturdy construction means this brush will be with you for the long haul.         Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush
  4. Real Techniques Bold Metals 301 Flat Contour Brush: From the genius Chapman sisters of PixiWoo fame, this brush is perfect for chiseling those cheekbones!  Even though I’m not a fan of a hard-edged contour, this brush can create it.  The synthetic bristles are tightly packed to pick up and lay down a lot of product, so be cautious and build.  This brush is also on the cheaper end, but don’t think that means it’s poor quality!Real Techniques Bold Metals 301 Flat Contour Brush
  5. Dior Concealer Brush N13: The pointed head of this brush is perfect for placing concealer around the nose or the eyes.  I also use it to apply my eye primer, and occasionally cream shadows.  Like Chanel, Dior hand crafts each of their brushes–almost 30 people are involved in the creation of a single tool.  The price point isn’t as astronomically high as one would expect from Dior, either.Dior Concealer Brush N13
  6. Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 Skin: This Korean brand brush is one of my favorite finds.  It gives the most flawless finish, and is under $20 (prices vary depending on where you can find and purchase it).  Like the famed Artis Brushes, the handle on this brush is made for self-application, but the price tag is much more palatable.  It comes with brush and sponge heads, but I only use the brush.Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 Skin
  7. Laura Mercier Angled Eye Color: This eye brush does it all.  Large, fluffy, and angled you can use it for all-over eyeshadow application, or to work color into the corner and crease.  This brush also blends color beautifully.Laura Mercier Angled Eye
  8. Chanel Large Tapered Blending Brush N19: This is one of my all-time-favorite eye brushes.  It is rounded and blends perfectly into the crease of the eye.  It deposits a good amount of color and blurs lines.  I also like the ELF Contour Brush in the socket of the eyes.Chanel Large Tapered Blending Brush N19
  9. Dior Eyeliner Brush N24: This brush can be used to create countless liner looks–you can stamp liner into the waterline, created a winged line, or easily tap liner into the lash line.  I haven’t found a better all-around liner brush.Dior Eyeliner Brush N24

Product Review: Chanel Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum

Repurchase? Yes.

Given the amount of product making its way to my bathroom counter (and cabinets, and shelves, and floors…you get it, there’s a lot of product), it’s rare that I actually use up a product.  That means that when I do empty a bottle, it’s a GOOD product.  So on Monday’s I will highlight the products I keep coming back to again and again.

Those of you that know me, have probably heard me refer to my skin type as “Sahara desert dry,” and I’m only partially joking.  Constant hydration from the inside and outside is crucially important to us all, but even more so when you have reptilian skin like mine.  So, besides drinking copious amounts of water (my bladder hates me), I am constantly seeking out products to stave off dehydration.

In my quest for skin-quenching goodness, I always seem to return to Chanel’s Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum.  A revamp of the original, cult-classic Hydrabeauty Serum, the Micro-Serum represents a new advancement of that technology.  Utilizing a patented technology called microfluidics, the serum encapsulated Camellia Oil Extract in micro-droplets.  This means that the active ingredients are preserved in their purest form until they hit your skin!  How cool is that?

Chanel Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum
Chanel Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum


So what’s in this miracle serum?  Here is a listing of the key ingredients:

  • Camellia Micro-Droplets: As I mentioned before this is the real breakthrough in the product.  Camellia is actually known as the “Winter Rose” in some parts of the world because it is able to thrive in especially harsh conditions.  This means that the camellia harnessed by Chanel will help your skin to stay hydrated even in severe climates.  We’ll discuss these again below, when we talk OFA.
  • Camellia Alba PFA: We’re back to the wonderful camellia again.  PFA stands for polyfractioned actives–a technology Chanel uses in many of its products.  Basically it means there is a seriously high concentration of active ingredients in the product.  Camellia Alba PFA stimulates the skin’s ability to renew itself and adds a giant dose of hydration!
  • Camellia Alba OFA: Similar to the PFA concept, the OFA here stands for oleofractioned active.  Basically the same technique, but with oil.  The Camellia Alba OFA in this formulation is the main differentiator between the Micro and original serums.
  • Blue Ginger PFA: As if the above ingredients weren’t enough, Chanel also added in a powerful, natural antioxidant, in Blue Ginger PFA.  You already know all about the PFA technology, but the Blue Ginger acts as a shield to neutralize free-radicals and pollutants that our skin is exposed to throughout the day.  Antioxidants also increase the efficacy of your sunscreen (which I know you’re wearing daily!)


It’s a serum, and a very lightweight one at that–the Micro-Serum has an almost water-like texture.  No matter what else I am using at the moment, this is the first serum I apply.  Chanel actually teaches its Beauté Analystes to press into the skin and then use the “raindrop technique” to stimulate radiance.  This technique involves tapping the face with the tips of your fingers to stimulate microcirculation (blood flow to the face).  Then top with a moisturizer and you’re out the door!


The radiance-inducing properties of this serum are just to die for!  Not to mention the hefty dose of hydration.  To top it all off, the serum has a delightful scent that won’t overpower any fragrance you might be wearing.  All in all, it’s a 10 out of 10!