Amperna Skincare Review: Actives for Sensitive Skin

Amperna Skincare Review

Amperna is an Australian skincare line developed for sensitive and problematic skin that’s still packed with actives that treat acne. A lot of anti-acne product lines are harsh, and even if they’re effective for a lot of people, they can make sensitive skin can freak out. You don’t really want to switch acne-prone skin for stinging, irritated skin.

Amperna’s founder Kiri Yanchenko was inspired by her own experience with sensitive acne-prone skin, and the lack of gentle but active skincare products designed for sensitive skin. Amperna’s products are suitable for any skin type, and have been tested on skin that’s prone to eczema, dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, rosacea and acne. It’s also Australian made and cruelty free, and all of the products come in convenient pump bottles.

The Amperna line currently has 5 products: cleanser, exfoliant, moisturiser, vitamin C serum and soothing serum. I tried them out over a period of 3 weeks – here’s what I thought of them!

Amperna Ultra Gentle Soothing Cleanser

Amperna Ultra Gentle Soothing Cleanser ($40 AUD for 125 mL) is a foaming gel cleanser. It has gentle surfactants (betaine, sodium lauroamphoacetate, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, cocamidopropyl betaine) and foams very lightly with water. It has a low, skin-friendly pH of around 5, which is important for avoiding long-term cleanser-induced irritation.

There are a few interesting actives in the cleanser:

  • Canadian willowherb extract, which has been found to kill acne bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) in vitro in manufacturer studies, and reduce redness from irritation and sunburn in manufacturer clinical studies. It’s also an antioxidant that soaks up free radical damage. The active compound is called oenothein B.
  • White willow bark extract, which contains salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant (aka beta hydroxy acid or BHA), salicin which has some anti-inflammatory properties, and tannins, which are astringent.

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Stratia Skin Review: Liquid Gold, Fortify, Rewind, Soft Touch AHA, Velvet Cleansing Milk

Stratia Skin Review: Liquid Gold, Rewind, Soft Touch AHA, Velvet Cleansing Milk, Fortify

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.

Stratia Skin Review: Liquid Gold, Rewind, Soft Touch AHA, Velvet Cleansing Milk, Fortify

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.

Related post: The Ordinary Skincare Review Pt 2: Niacinamide + Zinc, Buffet

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.

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Video: KraveBeauty Skincare Review (Kale-lalu-yAHA and Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser)

Video: KraveBeauty Skincare Review (Kale-lalu-yAHA and Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser)

If you follow skincare YouTubers, you probably know of Liah Yoo, who does a lot of in-depth Korean skincare videos. She’s launched a line, KraveBeauty, and sent me their first two products to review! I’ve made a video for these – I haven’t done many product review videos yet, so let me know what you think and whether I should …

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Cleansing Balm reviews: Farmacy, Pixi, Emma Hardie, Ole Henriksen, Caolion

Cleansing Balm reviews: Farmacy, Pixi, Emma Hardie, Ole Henriksen, Caolion

I’ve been a fan of cleansing oils for a while (see e.g. Cleansing Oil Reviews). I love how quickly they get rid of my make-up, and how they protect my dehydration-prone skin.

But the tiny thing that annoys me a little about cleansing oils is that they can be a bit fiddly to get onto my face. I know this is a massively first world type of problem, but if you can solve it, why not? That’s why I’ve been reaching more and more for cleansing balms instead.

Related post: How Do Cleansing Balms Work? The Science!

Here are some cleansing balms that I’ve been trying out lately.

Cleansing Balm reviews: Farmacy, Pixi, Emma Hardie, Ole Henriksen, Caolion

Farmacy Green Clean Cleansing Balm

Farmacy Green Clean Cleansing Balm ($34 USD or $46 AUD for 90 mL) is a soft green waxy balm. It comes with a handy spatula, but it’s attached to the flimsy plastic insert lid that I throw away most of the time, which got annoying, so I’ve gotten rid of the insert and I’ve just stabbed the spatula into the balm for safekeeping.

It quickly melts away make-up, and rinses off quite cleanly, which is all I really need in a cleansing balm. It has a few actives (in particular echinacea, which is in a lot of their other products too), but I’m not really looking for my cleansers to do much heavy lifting in the actives department.

This Farmacy cleansing balm does contain polyethylene, which is technically microplastic. While it would be nice if they got rid of it, the very small size of polyethylene used for thickening (rather than as scrubbing particles) means it’s probably not going to have the same effects in the environment as the larger microplastic particles.

Ingredients: Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, PEG-10 Isostearate, Polyethylene, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Amino Esters-1, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Amber Powder, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract, Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Echinacea Purpurea Root Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Moringa Pterygosperma Seed Extract, Disodium Phosphate, Citric Acid.

Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm

Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm ($60 USD or $79.95 AUD for 100 g) is a product with a cult following. It’s based on grape seed and sweet almond oil. Grape seed oil has always been one of my favourites with its high linoleic acid content, which makes it light in texture and perfect for oily skin. This particular product feels and smells super luxe as well. It doesn’t dissolve as well in water as most of the other options I’ve been trying, so it comes with a two-sided (muslin and cotton towelling) washcloth for removal. I personally don’t like dealing with washcloths since I dislike having to launder them regularly to avoid breakouts. This balm doesn’t rinse off cleanly without the cloth unfortunately, so I tend not to use it as much, but if you’re a fan of cloths this is a great but pricier option.

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Do I Need a Special Cleanser to Remove Sunscreen?

Do I Need a Special Cleanser to Remove Sunscreen?

Here’s a myth I’ve been seeing around skincare communities: that you have to use a special cleanser to remove water-resistant sunscreen. For example:

“Keep in mind that most of these sunscreen actives are also oil-soluble (only dissolves in oil, not water), which gives sunscreens their water-proof and sweat-proof properties. Therefore, in order to completely remove sunscreen, you have to use an oil, cleansing oil, emollient cleanser, or makeup remover of some kind.” (Source: Skinacea)

Have we all been leaving sunscreen on our faces before we discovered the magic of double cleansing??

Do I Need a Special Cleanser to Remove Sunscreen?

How Do Cleansers Work?

Luckily, the answer is no. A regular cleanser will remove waterproof sunscreen! The reason for this is surfactants.

Surfactants are a special class of chemical I’ve mentioned quite a few times before. They look a bit like a tadpole, with a lipophilic (oil-loving) “tail” and a hydrophilic water-loving) “head”.

Do I Need a Special Cleanser to Remove Sunscreen?

(Related posts: How Do Cleansing Balms Work?, How Does Micellar Water Work?, The Science of Face Washing)

Because of this special structure, surfactants can help oil dissolve in water and vice versa. The tail binds to oil while the head binds to water. The surfactants help the oil lift off the skin, forming little oil droplets that end up dispersed in the water as an emulsion (surfactants are also known as emulsifiers for this reason). The droplets can then be rinsed away, leaving your skin clean.

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Cleansing Make-up Remover Wipe Review: Bioderma, Philosophy, Neutrogena, Burt’s Bees, Wotnot

Cleansing Make-up Remover Wipe Review: Bioderma, Philosophy, Neutrogena, Wotnot

I recently tried out a whole bunch of different wipes when I got my eyebrows microbladed (review coming soon) and couldn’t wash my face for a week. I generally prefer a proper cleanse to wipes because it feels less wasteful and polluting, but I do find them handy when travelling, and in situations like these! I tried wipes from Bioderma, Philosophy, Neutrogena, Wotnot Naturals and Burt’s Bees They all tested at a skin-friendly pH 4-5. Here’s what I thought of the individual products.

Cleansing Make-up Remover Wipe Review: Bioderma, Philosophy, Neutrogena, Wotnot

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Wipes

Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water is a huge hit in Australia, so there’s been a lot of buzz around their new Bioderma Sensibio H2O Wipes ($20.99 for a pack of 25) too.

The Sensibio line is designed for sensitive skin, and these wipes have a very short ingredients list which is good if you need to scan for your specific allergens. I thought it would be just the micellar water in wipe form, but it’s a completely separate product: the surfactant in the wipes is polysorbate 20, while the micellar water contains PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides.

I found these a bit of a mixed bag. They didn’t sting my eyes, but they were a little weak in the make-up removal department. My skin felt a bit tight after cleansing with these, but paradoxically it still felt plump and hydrated with that slightly sticky humectant feeling. The regular Micellar Water works better overall in my opinion, although these are a bit more convenient. It has a stronger fragrance than the micellar water as well.

(This is probably a good time to mention my pet hate – when people write H20 (with the number zero) instead of H2O (with the letter O). H2O is the formula for water and means 2 hydrogens + 1 oxygen, H20 is twenty hydrogens bonded together against the laws of physics. I know it’s a super petty thing to get irritated by, but I needed to get that out of my system.)

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Polysorbate 20, Pentylene Glycol, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Allantoin, Cetrimonium Bromide, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (Parfum).

Philosophy Purity Cleansing Cloths

Philosophy Purity Made Simple cleansing cloths ($18 AUD for a pack of 30) are notable because unlike most other wipes, they don’t contain a standard surfactant in the top ingredients – there’s solvents (butylene glycol and water), oils (meadowfoam seed oil is the main one) and gluconolactone (a PHA exfoliant).

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Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Simple, Hylamide, Erno Laszlo

Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Erno Laszlo, Simple

Cleansing oils are a great compromise between convenience and oil cleansing. I’ve tried a bunch more from Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Hylamide, Erno Laszlo and Simple since my last review, so here are my thoughts.

Cleansing Oils vs Oil Cleansing

First, what’s the difference between cleansing oils and oil cleansing? Simply swapping the two words around makes a big difference!

Cleansing oils are oils that contain surfactants (emulsifiers) – in other words, they’re much like a mixture of oil and soap. When you apply them to your skin they act like oils, but when you add water, the soap part helps the oil dissolve in the water and rinse off your skin (they’ll look a bit milky at this stage – that’s the tiny oil droplets hanging out in the water!).

Oil cleansing involves using plain oils, without surfactants. To get the oil off your skin, you either have to add a separate cleanser afterwards, or you have to use more oil to wash the dirty oil off.

Both methods are great for removing makeup and sunscreen. However, cleansing oils are generally easier to rinse off, since the surfactant is already mixed thoroughly in the oil. I’d still recommend double cleansing by following the cleansing oil with a cleanser (exception: if you weren’t wearing anything too heavy on your skin to begin with, and the cleansing oil is compatible with your skin). Even though cleansing oils should theoretically come off when you rinse with water, sometimes they aren’t formulated with quite enough surfactants for complete removal. There are tons of reports of cleansing oils breaking people out, so it’s a good idea to test it on a small area of skin before using it too liberally before a big event!

Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Erno Laszlo, Simple

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