If you’re a skincare nerd, you’ve probably heard of Stratia Skin – their products are all over Instagram skincare addicts’ shelves! Alli of Stratia heard about my hunt for mandelic acid products and kindly offered to send me her range, which was very convenient since Stratia is one of the brands that I’ve had a ridiculous number of requests to review.
Stratia is a Los Angeles-based indie skincare brand that’s formulated with effectiveness in mind. Alli Reed, the founder, has an excellent blog called The Acid Queen where she detailed her DIY adventures before setting up Stratia.
As an Australian, I often get really excited about products, then completely disappointed when I see the shipping rate. Not to worry this time! Stratia has an extremely generous $9.95 flat rate shipping worldwide.
There are currently 5 products: Liquid Gold, Fortify, Rewind, Soft Touch AHA and Velvet Cleansing Milk. All the products are unscented, and three are vegan (Fortify, Soft Touch AHA and Velvet Cleansing Milk). The site states specifically which ingredients in the other products are animal-derived and from what parts of the animal, which is a level of detail that’s rare and appreciated. Other skincare nerd details are there too, like active percentages and product pH.
Onto the product reviews:
Stratia Liquid Gold
Liquid Gold ($24 USD for 60 mL) is the most hyped of Stratia’s products, and was one of the products in their first release. It’s also my favourite Stratia product so far, and landed in Beautypedia’s and Gothamista’s best of 2017 lists! It’s a moisturiser that contains a bunch of awesome ingredients to keep your skin in good shape, and protect it from harsh treatment.
Liquid Gold has 4% niacinamide, which is fantastic for helping maintain your skin’s barrier function, so it can trap moisture in better, and keep irritants out. It’s also had a bunch of other skin benefits too in clinical trials, like decreasing wrinkling, fading hyperpigmentation, reducing appearance of pores and decreasing skincare development.
Liquid Gold also has ceramides and cholesterol, two of the components of the lipid matrix that surrounds the cells in your stratum corneum (the top protective layer of your skin). It also has oils in it, which contain fatty acids bound up in triglycerides. There’s some research that found that putting lipid matrix components on your skin in the wrong ratio could make it recover from harsh treatment (like washing with cleanser) slower, but from what I can tell the right ratio is here. There’s also research that found that oils can act like fatty acids in this specific circumstance, so it’s likely to work as promised.
I’ve found that Liquid Gold has been awesome at reducing irritation when I’ve gone too hard on the actives. I’ve recently started using tretinoin as well, and I’ve been using Liquid Gold to try to stave off the irritation (more on that in a later post!). Originally I planned to only use it on “recovery” days, but I’ve found that I end up using it almost every day. I sometimes mix it with Stratia’s face oil Fortify as well when my skin’s feeling particularly dry. I love that it comes in a handy pump bottle – it’s guaranteed that I’ll use a product more often if it comes in a pump. The cream itself is quite thick, so it takes a bit of pressure to dispense which means I never pump out a stupidly large amount and waste product.
The colour of the product is really yellow. The colour comes from sea buckthorn oil. On my skin it doesn’t look coloured at all, but people who have pale skin can sometimes go a little orange from it. It sinks into my skin nicely so I can imagine that it’d work quite well as a day cream, I’ve found that it fits in better in my night routine regardless. For my oily skin, it’s heavy enough to be my only oil-based moisturiser. It has a mild rosehip-like musty smell.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Niacinamide, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Rosa Mosqueta (Rose) Hip Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, Panthenol, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Squalane (olive-derived), Cetyl Alcohol, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA.
Fortify ($18 USD for 30 mL) is a facial oil blend, with 8 different oils: camellia, borage, perilla, jojoba, marula, tamanu and cranberry oils, plus squalane. The oils were selected to contain a blend of all the essential omega fatty acids (omega-3 (alpha-linolenic), omega-6 (linoleic), and omega-9 (oleic)). I don’t think facial oils are a good source of free fatty acids for your lipid matrix per se (video on this coming soon!), but the fatty acid proportions will tell you a bit about the texture of the final product!
I’ve found that this is quite light and sinks into your skin well if you don’t apply too much. It doesn’t drag when you apply it like a more linoleic-rich oil, but also doesn’t feel like it’s dripping off my face either (a bit problem when you’re oily!). It has quite a strong musty oil smell – to me it isn’t unpleasant, but I can imagine it could bother some people. I’ve been mixing a couple of drops with Liquid Gold when my skin feels extra dry, and using it under tretinoin to try to reduce irritation – it’s working really well for both. I’ve also lent this to my sister to help with spironolactone-induced dryness and she loves it too!
Ingredients: Camellia japonica (Camellia) Seed Oil, Borago officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Perilla ocymoides (Perilla) Seed Oil, Squalane, Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sclerocarya birrea (Marula) Seed Oil, Calophyllum inophyllum (Tamanu) Oil, Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Tocopherol.
Rewind ($16 USD for 30 mL) is the other product in Stratia’s first release. It’s a light serum containing 5% niacinamide and 2.5% DMAE. I’ve already gone through the many awesome properties of niacinamide above, but DMAE is actually quite new to me. DMAE is short for dimethylaminoethanol, and is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The idea behind DMAE in skincare is that it contracts muscle – in theory, the contracted muscle forms a solid foundation for your skin to sit on so it looks firmer, smoother and less saggy. With some DMAE products you can actually feel tingling when it starts to work, though I don’t feel this with Rewind. There are a few studies that have found that it does help, although the evidence is a bit light. It’s also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and seems to thicken the dermis.
Rewind is really light and super hydrating, with a heavy dose of my favourite humectant glycerin, as well as hyaluronic acid and tamarind seed. In addition to niacinamide and DMAE, it also has antioxidant/anti-inflammatory licorice and Centella extracts. I’ve found that it’s great for making my skin look smoother and plumper, and works overnight as well as under sunscreen. The lightness means it doesn’t add much to your skin in terms of layering, so it’s easy to incorporate into your routine without feeling like you’ve slopped too much stuff on your face. It has a very light and inoffensive smell.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Niacinamide, Propylene Glycol, 2-Dimethylamino Ethanol (DMAE), Panthenol, Hydrolized Rice Protein, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Tamarindus Indica (Tamarind) Seed Extract, Hydrocotyl (Centella Asiatica) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA.
Stratia Soft Touch AHA
Soft Touch AHA ($14 USD for 50 mL) is the product that was most interested in, aside from Liquid Gold. It’s a mandelic acid gel. Mandelic acid is a rarer AHA in skincare – you’ll find a ton of glycolic acid, a reasonable number of lactic acid products, but only a small handful of mandelic acid products (I can only think of maybe 6 products with it. The AHAs used in skincare are exfoliants that help dead cells slough off so you end up with smoother, clearer skin with reduced fine lines and wrinkles. There aren’t any studies on mandelic acid at lower concentrations as an exfoliant, but it should work like glycolic and lactic acids. The interesting thing about it is its size. Because it’s quite a bit larger than glycolic and lactic acids, mandelic acid doesn’t penetrate as deeply, so it should be less irritating and have a more even effect.
Soft Touch AHA has mandelic acid at a concentration of 10% and a low pH of around 3.4. The product also contains soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe, chamomile and allantoin, so irritation should be even lower. These ingredients might also help reduce purging if this is your first AHA product! There are also humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to give your skin extra moisture. It has a very slightly sour smell.
I really like the gel texture – it’s thick enough that it’s easy to apply and spread, but it dries thin enough that you can apply other products on top with no problems. I personally wait about 5 minutes after applying it before I move onto the next step in my routine (usually an oil). I haven’t tried using it under make-up since I like my morning routine to be as short as possible, but the product description says it works well!
It also comes in a handy pump bottle, which is my favourite type of bottle because I’m lazy. A little warning if you’re as unco as me: I had one incident where the pump got clogged because I left the bottle unused for about a week in hot weather and the leftover product in the hole dried up. When I pumped too hard the plug shot across my bed and left a chemtrail of AHA as well. If you want to be safe, aim it into your cupped palm if you think it might be clogged!
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Mandelic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Panthenol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Sodium Hydroxide, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.
Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk
Velvet Cleansing Milk ($15 USD for 4 fl oz or 118 mL) is a gentle non-foaming cleanser. Gentle cleansers are one of my skincare must-haves. My skin is really dehydration-prone, so regular cleansers often leave it feeling tight and uncomfortable. Velvet Cleansing Milk doesn’t strip my skin at all – it’s full of gentle surfactants (olive oil PEG-7 esters), soothing chamomile water and emollient ingredients (rice bran oil, caprylic/capric triglycerides). Glycerin also makes an appearance. I’ve found that glycerin can actually undo the tightness and dehydration from a more stripping cleanser, but I think the glycerin is too low here for that, so I don’t think this cleanser strips my skin in the first place. It’s at a skin-friendly pH of around 5.0.
I found that it was actually fine at removing all my make-up, even on days when I wore medium coverage foundation. I still felt like I needed to use a cleansing oil first, mostly out of habit. I generally prefer foaming (or better yet, self-foaming) cleansers since they’re easier to spread and wash off your skin, but this one spreads really well and I didn’t have any issues rinsing it off, but I clean my face in the shower so it may not work as well over the sink.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Olive Oil PEG-7 Esters, Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Essential Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Ceteareth-20, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Disodium EDTA, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.
Overall, I really like these products. They’re solid products to have in your routine, and they’re pretty inexpensive as well, even with international shipping. My favourites are Liquid Gold, which I’ve been using pretty much non-stop, and Soft Touch AHA which is now my go-to medium strength acid exfoliant.
Stratia products are available from their website.
These products were provided for editorial consideration, but this is my honest opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.