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.
I’m a huge fan of exfoliation. It’s one of the easiest things to incorporate into your skincare routine that has really big effects, and pretty much anyone with any skin type can benefit from some form of exfoliation. I made a free Essential Guide to Exfoliation (click to download) all about exfoliating, and I’m giving an overview of the key points in this video – check it out here.
The PDF guide also has suggested routines for different skin types and conditions (dry, oily, aging, sensitive etc.) and some more product recommendations. I’ve also added some short reviews of some of the exfoliants I’ve been enjoying lately to this video.
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.
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 …
As you may know from my guidesto exfoliation, I’m obsessed with helping my skin desquamate. Unlike a lot of other skincare addicts, I don’t have a favourite type of exfoliation – I’ve found that my skin responds best when I have all three of the major exfoliation types (physical, chemical and enzyme) in my routine. That’s why I’ve been really excited about the appearance of more combination exfoliation products on the market, and today I’m reviewing three of them: Pixi Beauty Peel & Polish, Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, and Ultraceuticals Ultra Dual Microfoliant.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of combination exfoliants?
There are a few benefits to having all the different types of exfoliation in the one product:
Firstly, it’s a massive time saver, especially since the individual products tend to be formulated for use at different stages of your routine: scrubs and enzymes are usually wash-off products that you use after cleanser, while chemical exfoliants are usually leave-on products that you use under moisturisers. These combo products are all rinse-off.
If you have sensitive skin, it means you only have to find one product that your skin can handle.
It’s also good for when you’re trying to play catch-up with your exfoliation and you want to blast your skin with everything at once without crossing over into the frustrating realm of overexfoliation. Having an all-in-one product means you don’t have to try to remember how much of each exfoliant your skin can handle when paired with other products. This is always a doozy because the number of combos you can make increases exponentially with more products. If you have 3 products it gives you 7 possible combinations, if you have 4 products you have 15 combinations… if you have 7 products (which sounds like a lot, but isn’t all that unusual if you count things like washcloths and sponges) it gives you a headache-inducing 127 combinations. And that doesn’t include other considerations like application order, other skincare treatments you might use them with, and the state of your skin before treatment.
The biggest downside to having a combination product is that it limits your ability to customise your skincare routine. For example, you can’t choose to use enzymes without using the acid at the same time, and you can’t choose to leave the acid on for longer (excluding the scrub isn’t usually an issue since you can just move the product around less).
It also makes it harder to work out which type of exfoliation your skin likes the most (though chances are it’s the whole package).
Onto the reviews:
Pixi Peel & Polish
6% lactic acid (chemical – AHA)
polylactic acid (physical – microbeads)
beraclay light red (physical – clay)
papaya extract (enzyme – papain)
sugar cane extract (??? I though this would be glycolic acid, but the packaging suggests that it’s physical)
Total Refresher by Michael Todd Beauty is a new tool that attempts to replicate the spa experience at home. I was very lucky to have it in my hot little hands before its official launch next week!
The nifty Total Refresher combines 3 things in the one lightweight handheld tool: dermabrasion, comedone extraction and misting.
Total Refresher comes with 4 heads, one of which is a diamond tipped dermabrasion head. To exfoliate your skin, you glide the tip over taut skin without pressure. It’s recommended that you use it on clean, dry skin after applying a hot towel for 3-5 minutes. The instructions say to use it for a maximum of 5 minutes a week if you have dry skin, or 5 minutes twice a week for normal or oily skin. The tool has 3 speeds so you can adjust the intensity.
Dermabrasion is my favourite function of the tool. The suction automatically presses the diamond-coated tip against your skin so you don’t need to worry too much about how hard (or not-hard) to push. I’ve heard that other people end up red for an hour or two afterwards, but my skin seems to be resilient enough that I had no redness (although I’ve had aestheticians surprised by how little redness I get with in-clinic peels as well – I think my skin is deceptively resilient!).
I’ve been a little frustrated with what scientific concepts I can get through in words and crudely drawn illustrations on this here blog. When I teach at my day job, I do a lot of hand-waving, emphatic underlining, symbolic gesturing and smashing together of whiteboard markers, and not having the ability to show movement sometimes feels a bit like I …
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just aren’t that into skincare, you’d have heard of The Ordinary by now. The newest brand from Deciem (parent company of NIOD and Hylamide) aims to bring effective skincare to the market at affordable prices.
As a skincare science nerd, it’s very exciting because many evidence-backed ingredients are very cheap, but skincare brands often price the products containing them at a premium because they work so well, and everyone else prices them high.
While some expensive brands do incorporate other technologies in their formulations that would justify the higher price, it’s really annoying as a consumer. You never know for sure how well a specific product will work for you, and no one wants to spend $70 on a product just to find out that it does nothing for your skin three months down the track. All of The Ordinary’s products are priced between $8.80 and $24.90, and you can get them online, or in-store at Myer, Priceline or the standalone Deciem stores.
The products are very plainly named according to what ingredients they contain. Interestingly, they don’t really emphasise what each product is supposed to do, so it seems like they’re targeting this line towards skincare nerds who know what they want. It makes sense,since most of the formulas contain only one or two star ingredients and are well-suited to multi-step routines, unlike the “multivitamin”-like all-in-one products aimed at a less obsessive audience who aren’t as interested in hardcore customisation.
I’ve trialed 4 products so far: Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, Advanced Retinoid 2%, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% and “Buffet”. I’ll be talking about the first two in this post, and the second two in a post later this week. But before we delve into each individual product, here are some general remarks:
All 4 products come in 30 mL droppers, which I like because it’s easy to measure out the right amount of product, but it isn’t as convenient as a pump (dropper bottles also let in more light and air than airtight pump dispensers, but I don’t think it’s an issue with these particular products – more on that later).
One annoying thing with droppers is if the product is thick and you’re not careful when replacing the dropper, the product on the dropper scrapes off onto the neck of the bottle, and you get lots of caked up product on the threads. This luckily hasn’t a problem with these products since they’re quite runny, but I’ve experienced this a lot with liquid illuminators. The labels are no-nonsense and monochromatic chic.
All Deciem products are free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, animal oils, benzalkonium chloride, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, mercury and oxybenzone, and are not tested on animals. All four The Ordinary products I’m reviewing here are alcohol-free, silicone-free, nut-free and vegan.
There isn’t evidence that all of these ingredients are harmful (parabens are safe, as is mineral oil). Silicone is a bit annoying in routines because it can make other products roll off your face, and alcohol can be drying, so it’s convenient that these products have been formulated without them. There’s specific information on each product on the website, which is handy if you have nut allergies or if you want to stick to vegan products.
The prices I’m giving here are the Australian retail prices.
Good for: exfoliation, hyperpigmentation, congested skin, fine lines
Contains lactic acid: Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that’s fantastic for chemical exfoliation, and due to its slightly larger size, is supposed to be less irritating than glycolic acid. This is a particularly good option for people who are prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (i.e. anyone with dark skin or hair, including light-skinned Asians). In Australia (and most other places), glycolic acid products outnumber lactic acid products 20 to 1, so this is a very welcome addition to the market.
pH: Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% has a pH of 3.60-3.80, according to The Ordinary’s website, which is low enough to be effective. The Ordinary’s site states that a higher pH would be more irritating. I’m not sure what the reasoning for this is, since lower pH is both inherently more irritating, and allows more acid to get into the skin and exfoliate…