Products I Used to Love

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How to cite: Wong M. Products I Used to Love. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. May 17, 2021. Accessed June 22, 2024.

I’m a dinosaur in beauty blogger years. I started my blog in December 2011, and in the last 10-ish years, I’ve learned a lot as I’ve read way too deeply into pretty much everything. I recently had the urge to go through some of my older posts, and unsurprisingly, I’ve said quite a few myths in the past (like the infamous “mineral sunscreens work like umbrellas” analogy – it’s probably a good idea to take everything I said before 2015 with a grain of salt!).

As I was going through some of my older posts, I noticed a bunch of products I raved about in the past that I don’t really use in my routine anymore. So I thought it would be interesting to go through them!

Here’s the video on YouTube, keep scrolling down for the text version…

Neostrata Gel Plus

Neostrata Gel Plus is an alpha hydroxy acid chemical exfoliant with 15% glycolic acid. I was really into this in 2012, when it was an unusual product, especially in Australia – there were around 3 products with this high a concentration of glycolic acid. Now it’s pretty easy to find a chemical exfoliant. There’s been so many launched on the market that I’ve never had to repurchase this.

I still think it’s a great formula. Neostrata was founded by the scientists (Van Scott and Yu) who did a lot of the pioneering research on alpha hydroxy acids and polyhydroxy acids. But the market’s changed a lot since then, and there are so many great chemical exfoliants that you can buy for a lot less. So I don’t think it’s really worth it to pay top dollar for a relatively simple formula anymore.

Neostrata have a lot of other great products that are quite unique, like the Skin Active Tri-Therapy Lifting Serum – I’d recommend getting those over the Gel Plus.

Related post: Polyhydroxy acids? Aminofil? Neostrata Skin Active Tri-Therapy Lifting Serum

CoverGirl Lash Blast Waterproof Mascara

CoverGirl Lash Blast Waterproof Mascara is the best mascara I’ve used. But I have trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder. I’ve never really talked about this before, because it’s something that I’ve pretty successfully managed to the point where it doesn’t really interfere with my life anymore… except in the realm of eyelashes.

Trichotillomania is a compulsive hair pulling disorder, linked to things like OCD and anxiety. It’s reasonably common (about 0.9 to 4% of the population get it at some point in their lives),and it’s more common in women.

It started for me when I was about nine. When I was stressed or bored, I would start pulling out strands of head hair. It got pretty bad – at one point, I had really thin patches on my head. I also started getting really frizzy regrowth, and my mom gave me some really hideous haircuts to try to hide the regrowth. I started out by pulling out the most perfect thick hairs I could find, then I eventually redirected myself into only pulling out the kinky frizzy ones (which are a lot rarer on my head), as well as my eyelashes.

Now when I’m stressed, I’ll search through my hair for a kinky hair to pull out. My eyes also get itchy when I’m stressed, so I’ll start yanking on loose eyelashes. A lot of the time when my eyes are itchy, it is actually a loose eyelash, and I also wear rigid contact lenses at night. If I get a loose eyelash in my eye at the same time as the rigid contact lens it’s incredibly painful, so it’s actually not that bad a situation for me to avoid loose eyelashes. But it does mean that I have really patchy eyelashes.

For a while in my early 20s I cared a lot about this, because everyone on YouTube had really big eyelashes and wore false eyelashes (I think it’s still like that now). I used Latisse to grow my eyelashes, and I got eyelash extensions once (that was actually a really bad idea because it gave me better grip to pull out eyelashes!). But eventually I stopped caring. I also wear really thick eyeliner anyway so it doesn’t really make a massive difference. But if you’re wondering why I never wear mascara or false eyelashes, that’s why.

Australian Natural Skincare

I’m Australian, and these brands are really big here. They’re reasonably priced, and you get them a lot in gift-with-purchase bags from retailers. These brands sell rosehip oil (which I use a lot), and they often include sample sachets of their other products in the box. They also send out PR samples to Australian bloggers. So between 2011 and 2013 I used a lot of these products, and they worked really well on my skin. They tend to have essential oils which isn’t great for sensitive skin, but the only brand that I reacted to was Sukin.

But there are two big reasons why I’ve drifted away from these products.

Firstly, they have a shorter shelf life. These products use lots of natural extracts and oils, and they’re limited to “natural” ingredients, so they tend to go a bit funny in texture after a while. I never noticed any mould or colour changes, but the texture changes were pretty off-putting. Since I try out lots of different products for reviews, I never really got through full containers quickly enough to avoid these changes.

The other issue is that these brands tend to lean into those fear-mongering, “clean beauty” denigrating claims, with claims like “free from parabens” and “no nasties”. I’ve talked about the issues with clean beauty before. Most brands on the market at the moment have some level of these claims – out of the brands I used to use, the worst is probably Sukin.

(Side note: It’s been a pretty tricky situation, and I’m not entirely sure how I should be approaching this, so perhaps some of you have some suggestions?

For example, I love rosehip oil and use it a lot (I’ve been getting over a cold and my nose is really chapped, so it’s been really getting a workout recently). Most of the rosehip oils in Australia come from these brands that have some level of clean marketing, and I receive them as PR samples (I don’t specifically ask for them, but they’re sent to me from PR companies and they often come as part of a package from a big retailer). So I have these bottles of rosehip oil lying around, and it seems incredibly wasteful to throw them out and buy rosehip oil from somewhere else.

I want to be honest about what I’m using on my skin, but I also don’t want to be promoting brands that use a lot of “clean” in their marketing. I started a policy of not doing paid collaborations with brands that prominently feature “clean” marketing, and I explain it to the brands when I talk to them, hoping they take on that feedback.

But with sharing my routine in my Instagram stories, I’m not really sure where to draw the line. I think most brands now have some level of these “clean” claims in their marketing, and sometimes it’s really hard to pick up – you won’t necessarily see it on their Instagram or packaging, and sometimes you have to dig into their blog or FAQs. I try a lot of different products, and it’s really quite labour-intensive to spend 2 hours searching through everything a brand has ever said before posting a picture of the six different brands I used that day. And brands change their marketing all the time, so it can be really hard to keep track of it!

Anyway, I realise this is a very Michelle-specific problem, and if anyone has any suggestions I’d be really grateful.)

Lush Angels on Bare Skin

I really like Lush Angels on Bare Skin. It’s a really gentle scrub that’s hydrating… but again, it’s the shelf life issue. I could never get through a tub of this before it went off. I started freezing little nuggets of it in my freezer (I still have some in my freezer), but it’s just a hassle. I’ve been using Skinfood Pineapple Peeling Gel instead as my physical exfoliant (that’s also listed in my 2012 favourites, so clearly I’m a creature of habit).

Netting Sponge on a Stick

Netting sponges on sticks are a really efficient way of washing your back. I got this one from Daiso for $2.80.

The problem is that netting sponges tend to grow mould if they don’t dry out properly. Since they’re all bunched up, they tend to stay quite damp. You’ll see all these scary stories in the medical literature about people getting infections from infected sponges and shower tools, since they tend to sit around wet with skin cells and beauty products all over them, making them the perfect environment for bacteria to start having generations of babies.

Related post and video: Body Skincare: Tips, Products & How You Should Shower

I’m quite prone to folliculitis when my skin’s irritated and damp. For example, I’ve been getting it after laser hair removal – it’s irritating to skin, and you apply a cooling gel to the areas afterward. I also get little folliculitis spots with not-super-breathable synthetic period undies, when the printed label rubs against my skin. It also happens after dance classes when I swivel on my butt (friction!), and even when I wear synthetic clothing and don’t shower for more than 24 hours (not as gross as it sounds, e.g. when I shower in the morning on one day and don’t shower till the evening of the next day – I have no regular schedule, since my life is chaos and I have chaos dragon energy).

So I switched to exfoliating towels instead to reduce my chances of folliculitis. Again, you can get these towels from a lot of Asian stores like Daiso and Innisfree. Because they’re one big sheet, they dry out a lot more easily, and you can just chuck them in the laundry for a thorough clean.

Seche Vite Top Coat

Seche Vite Top Coat is an amazing top coat that smooths out your nail polish and makes it look like it’s just all one beautiful bump-free, glassy layer. I got lazy and stopped painting my nails as much as I did back in my nail art days, so now I want something that lasts for ages if I paint my nails.

The way Seche Vite works is my redissolving the nail polish layers and letting it re-dry into one smooth layer. But this also means that the one giant layer chips and peels off really easily. These days I go for a long-wearing top coat like Sally Hansen Insta-Dri.

Korean BB Cream

BB cream is meant to be an all-in-one product, acting as sunscreen, foundation and skin care. But a lot of all-in-one products just don’t do really well in any domain – it’s a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation.

BB creams are quite pigmented so they tend to work well as foundation. But that means you can’t really apply enough for it to work well as sunscreen, and if you’re applying sunscreen underneath it, the skincare benefits aren’t that effective since the skincare isn’t going to have an easy time getting to your skin. So it mostly just works as foundation… but most ranges have only two or three shades. So now I just tend to use sunscreen then foundation on top, or a tinted sunscreen that isn’t too pigmented so I can apply the right amount for good protection.

Benefit CORALista

Benefit CORALista is a blush that’s a pretty coral color with a subtle natural-looking shimmer. I actually said it was pigmented in my review, and back in 2012, compared to other blushes on the Australian market, it probably was. But there are a lot of better products on the market now.

If you’re quite pale, then CORALista works quite well – and I think that’s the case with a lot of Benefit products. Frankly, a lot of them are designed for pale people! So I switched to more pigmented blushes now that have a bigger shade range and require less work to make show up on darker skin. One of my favorites is Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso.

I hope that was an interesting trip down memory lane! Do you have products that you’ve just completely given up on as well?

This video is not sponsored, but many of the products mentioned were provided as PR samples for editorial consideration or for sponsored posts; however, these are still my honest opinions of the products. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and purchase any product, you’ll be supporting Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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13 thoughts on “Products I Used to Love”

  1. There are definitely products that I used to use love that I don’t any more. I can’t think of anything in particular atm, it would prob be a long list LOL, things and people change. 🙂 Though I do remember using Neostrata 20 years ago! That was my go to. I forgot about that! I agree with you, there’s so much available on the market now for less, I wouldn’t spend the money on Neostrata any more. Hence why I haven’t I guess.

    Yes, I enjoyed this trip down memory lane 😉

  2. Love looking through old purchases and realizing how much I’ve grown! Great stuff.

    As to your problem, with the clean dilemma, I hear you. It’s good to have standards, and that you take what you put online seriously! It’s something I appreciate when searching for advice, and it’s half the reason why I follow you; we can tell you think of these things and are honest about it. And it’s true, it’s like all brands have gone on this clean kick, either in marketing or products, and there’s no end in sight.

    My opinion is, and you’re welcome to ignore it, that this clean issue is almost unavoidable. I don’t think it’s fair to expect yourself to avoid all products even from a clean brand (especially if they were given to you). I certainly don’t expect it from myself also! Using or talking about the odd product from one of these sneaky brands won’t kill your reputation in my eyes. Especially since you’re always honest about your stance. I know the bigger issue is to end the miss information and not promote them, but as you said, it’s almost impossible to keep track of who’s doing clean now.

    So I think, if you’re honest in a post by saying something along the lines of “Yes I’ve used this thing, but NOT because it’s clean…” you’re good to go. And if people have a problem with that (the internet is troll country right?) then that’s their problem.

    • I guess my issue isn’t so much about my reputation, but rather financially rewarding brands that engage in this sort of marketing – I think at the moment there’s a clear advantage to engaging in “clean” marketing (getting sales from the misled consumers) and no real disadvantage if science-based content creators still endorse them, and I feel like one of the few things I can do that could potentially make a real difference is if I took a clear stand against them. But I think your suggestion about saying something along the lines of “it’s a great product but it’s a shame about the marketing” would actually be more effective, because then they’ll actually see it! Thank you 🙂

      • Anytime, glad you found that helpful!

        It’s funny, whenever I do buy the odd clean product from stores that have made specific “clean seal” label (hope we all know the store I’m taking about), I think to myself “Great, now I’m part of their marketing statistic proving that this label works!” Meanwhile I’m really only trying something because an ingredient might sound interesting, or whatever It’s a real dilemma, and I totally see where you’re coming from.

        At the end of the day you definitely have to do what works for you. Wishing you the best of luck with that!

  3. I understand your concern with the “clean” brands – my approach is that I use the products I like, but point out when reviewing them that I do not support the claims and fearmongering. But I do not want to restrict myself from using products I enjoy because the brand is partaking in this marketing spiel.

  4. I used to use Sukin products when I first started getting into skincare, but before I was used to the insidiousness of “clean” marketing – now I definitely try to avoid brands who use that schtick.

    I also got really excited when you said you have trichotillomania (hear me out). I never really see it being talked about, and your description of getting itchy eyes and avoiding mascara is so similar to my experience. I actually cried a little reading that bc I don’t think I’ve felt that kind of solidarity before.

    • I’m glad I ended up talking about it – I wasn’t sure if anyone would care but it’s lovely to hear that it was appreciated! <3

  5. Michelle, I love your blog! I love it because:
    1) Science!
    2) Integrity of content – it’s not often you see people with an online presence admit they were wrong in the past, but it’s one of the best characteristics, in general, but especially when someone is seeking to cut through the BS and get solid advice.
    3) Honesty – I don’t personally experience trichotillomania, but I have had a host of compulsive behaviors over my four decades of existence, and probably 100 times more of obsessive thinking. The behaviors we feel shamed/ashamed over are not actually the aberrance here: the *idea* that we *should* feel ashamed because of these behaviors, that’s the odd and unnatural phenomenon. The more we talk about the things we feel ashamed of, the less power they hold over us. As I tell me kids, you have to turn on the light to see that there are no such thing as monsters.

    Thank you for all the resources here! You are a blessing to so many!

  6. I’m popping in just to say that you’re fantastic – your blend of concise but detailed explanations of the chemistry behind skincare, your honesty and openness about your life and your own skin, plus your great writing style, make this blog a joy. You’re my first point of call whenever I’m confused about how to manage my skin and you never let me down. Thanks for all your hard work. (I wish you were top of the google search results instead of a lot of badly written hyped up “clean beauty” nonsense!)

  7. I also have RGP lenses and itchy lashes. I totally know the extreme pain of getting a loose lash in my eye while wearing them! After one really bad eyelash yank session a few years back, I went on an internet dig and made a connection to demodex mites. I never saw a doctor to confirm, but added a bit of tea tree oil and a carrier oil to a cheap face wash and made sure to give my eyelids some gentle swipes whenever I washed my face. It made a huge difference and the itch gradually went away. When that ran out, I found a face wash that had tea tree as an ingredient (which has sadly since been discontinued). I haven’t had a flare-up in ages, but I know what to do if the itch returns.


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