How essences boost your skincare routine

Jurlique Activating Water Essence Ingredients

This post is sponsored by Jurlique. I’ve talked about my favourite essence before in 2017: Jurlique Activating Water Essence. Here’s why it’s awesome, and why you probably also want an essence in your routine! What is an essence? Essences have been a staple in Korean skincare for years, but they’re still quite rare from Western brands. So when Jurlique launched …

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Jurlique Favourites

Jurlique Favourites

One of my favourite “indulgence” brands is Jurlique. Jurlique are an Australian “natural” brand who extract their natural ingredients from their own organic and biodynamic farm in the Adelaide Hills. Since they’re in charge of their own plant ingredients, they have stringent quality control and can ensure that the ingredients are fresh, which gets rid of some of the potency issues with natural ingredients. Jurlique aren’t particularly budget-friendly, and there are lots of products out there with more scientific evidence backing them that are more cost-effective, but sometimes you need to splurge a little and treat yourself to a feel-good product. My bestie has been a Jurlique loyalist for years, so I have a bit of a soft spot for them!

Here are some of my favourite products from Jurlique:

Jurlique Favourites

Activating Water Essence – This is a cocktail of moisture-grabbing humectant ingredients like biosaccharide gum-1, saccharide isomerate, Althaea officinalis (marshmallow) root extract, as well as my perennial favourite glycerin. It spreads really nicely on the skin so you don’t need to use much. I find that it hydrates a lot better than humectant products that are just glycerin, maybe because it hydrates at a few different depths in the skin.

Rosewater Balancing Mist – This is a lighter, less intensely moisturising spray that you can use on top of makeup to add a bit of hydrating throughout the day, or if your makeup is looking a bit dry and cakey. It has marshmallow root extract, which is a really effective humectant. If you like rose scents as much as I do, you’ll love this as a pick-me-up. Warning: It contains a bit of alcohol, so it won’t be hydrating enough when the weather is too dry, but in normal-to-humid weather it’s great.

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Christmas Gift Guide 2016

Christmas Gift Guide 2016

There are some fantastic gift sets out for the holidays! Here are some of my favourites out of the many I’ve come across – hopefully it might inspire you if you’re still stuck for ideas!

Skincare

Christmas Gift Guide 2016Christmas Gift Guide 2016 Christmas Gift Guide 2016

I generally don’t suggest gifting skincare – skincare is pretty personal, so unless you know exactly what they use or if you know that their skin can tolerate most things, I’d recommend sticking with indulgent body products. Reactions and breakouts are much more common on thinner facial skin. For facial skincare, the least risky products are those that don’t stay on the skin for long, like masks and cleansers, or skincare tools.

Jurlique Rose Oil ($59 AUD for 100 mL) is based on safflower and macadamia oil. It’s an awesome indulgence for a friend who loves roses and isn’t sensitive to natural fragrances. Sephora also has a selection of their own little gift sets including konjac sponges ($20 for 2 – great for gentle exfoliation) and bath treats. Lush is also always great for bath products, especially with their huge Christmas collection. My favourite products are the bath bombs ($4.25-$8.95).

Makeup

Christmas Gift Guide 2016Christmas Gift Guide 2016Christmas Gift Guide 2016Christmas Gift Guide 2016Christmas Gift Guide 2016

There are a whole bunch of makeup sets out, and makeup is pretty easy – anyone can use more makeup! Makeup brushes are a sure bet: IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Must-Haves ($110) are a lovely set for your makeup addict friend. For younger makeup fiends, ulta3 have a range of affordable gift sets under $25, and Sephora have the fantastic Geometricolor palette ($69) if you want to set a budding makeup artist with a great starter kit. For someone who is a bit more conservative with their makeup, Revlon and Mirenesse gift sets are a great option. My personal favourite pick are the NYX vaults ($79), which have great pigmented formulas at a low price.

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Tip: Multi-Sunscreening for Maximum Protection and Minimum Grease

Tip: Multi-Sunscreening for Maximum Protection and Minimum Grease

Here’s a simple skincare trick that I’ve found ridiculously useful lately that I thought I’d share in case it helps anyone else out. I’m sure I’m not the first person to do it, but I also haven’t seen it discussed anywhere else (though I haven’t been looking very hard).

I’ve started doing something that can be best described as “multi-sunscreening”, a bit like the “multi-masking trend” that a lot of brands are jumping on. I was inspired to do this when I watched Fiddy Snails apply her sunscreen using a BB cushion puff on Instagram, when she patted her sunscreen in all over her face using the puff then went back to part in extra on her pigmentation problem areas.

Here’s my issue: I get pigmentation very quickly on the tops of my cheekbones. It’s an annoying genetic thing that a lot of East Asian people have, and I’ve managed to inherit it from my dad’s side (thaaaanks). Right now it’s not too bad, but mostly because I throw hydroxy acids and vitamin C at it all the time to try to lighten it, and cover it with high UVA protection sunscreen to stop it from getting worse.

The problem is that I also have oily skin, from my mum (again: thaaaanks). The sunscreens with the highest UVA protection that I know of come from French brands Bioderma and La Roche-Posay. And unfortunately, they’re greasy, at least on my oil slick face. Even their “fluids” designed for oily skin turn me into an unsightly mirror ball at the end of the day. So I find myself reaching for more “cosmetically elegant” sunscreens most of the time – usually Bioré Aqua Base Watery Essence – which keep my oily areas manageable but aren’t waterproof or sweatproof, and have lower UVA protection as well. I’ve noticed that my sunspots are steadily creeping back.

Here’s where multi-sunscreening has saved both my long-term skin health as well as my daily try-not-to-look-like-melting-wax efforts. My sunscreen routine now goes like this:

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Humectant Waters and Sprays: A Quick Fix for Dehydrated Skin

Humectant waters and sprays: a fix for dehydrated skin

Dehydrated skin is very common in winter, when cold dry air speeds up water evaporation from skin. It’s also made worse with air conditioning and recirculated aeroplane air. Exfoliants, moisturisers and masks help, but sometimes what your skin really needs is a targeted humectant product that will give a hardcore hydration boost.

What is dehydrated skin?

Dry skin occurs when you don’t have enough oil in your skin, while dehydrated skin occurs when your skin is lacking water. Dry and dehydrated skin are related issues, but they don’t necessarily appear together – your skin can be dry and hydrated, or it can be oily and dehydrated (like mine).

(This post has more on dry and dehydrated skin, how to tell the difference and how to treat them.)

What are humectants?

Humectants are one of the three classes of moisturiser ingredients (the other two are occlusives and emollients). Humectant ingredients are good at holding onto water, a bit like a sponge. Applying a humectant moisturiser essentially means you’ll have a bunch of teeny tiny wet sponges sitting on your skin, keeping it moist.

(The more technical version: Humectant ingredients tend to contain lots of oxygen (O) and hydroxy groups (OH), which can form strong hydrogen bonds with water. This means it’s harder for water to evaporate and escape once it’s on your humectant-covered skin.

Humectant waters and sprays: a fix for dehydrated skin

Glycerin, a common humectant ingredient, also has the advantage of being able to travel and take water through small channels in the skin called aquaporins, so it can hydrate more deeply.)

What are the benefits of humectants?

Humectants, occlusives and emollients are found in moisturising creams and lotions, which are a must for your morning and evening routines if your skin is dehydrated. However, in dry weather, your skin might dehydrate between moisturiser applications, or your regular skincare routine might now be enough.

Here’s where humectant sprays come in! Unlike occlusives and emollients, humectants are water-based. Since makeup and sunscreen is oil-based, applying oils during the day will mess up your makeup and sunscreen. The beauty of a humectant mist is that they will hydrate your skin with as little disturbance as possible.

Humectant products

Unfortunately, water-based humectant products usually don’t come in spray form! They’re commonly designed mostly to be used after cleansing and before serum in a skincare routine, so they come in toner-like bottles with a small hole so you can apply them using a cotton pad or your fingers (they’re sometimes labelled as toners too). I transfer these into cheap spray bottles from the variety store, and watch out carefully for signs of rusting (you can also get spray bottles from eBay or Amazon). It also makes them a lot more portable for hydration when you’re out or in the office.

Humectant waters don’t have a common name, so to find them you’ll have to look at the ingredients lists! You’re looking for a product that is quite watery, with a humectant near the top of the ingredients list. Common humectant ingredients include glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

Here are three products that I’ve been using:

Humectant waters and sprays: a fix for dehydrated skin

Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Nourishing Facial Water

Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Nourishing Facial Water is the first product I’ve seen that’s specifically designed to be a humectant water, which I reviewed a while ago. It’s mostly water and glycerin with some fruit extracts thrown in for antioxidant effects and to make it smell nice. It’s $12.99 for 118 mL (4  fl oz) in the US, and $24.95 in Australia.

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How to Exfoliate 2: All About Chemical Exfoliants

aha-exfoliants

Here’s Part 2 of this skincare series on exfoliation. Part 1 was on physical exfoliating tools and scrubs, this time we’re tackling the more complex chemical exfoliants, before moving onto picking the right exfoliation routine for your skin in Part 3. For a simpler overview, you can head to this exfoliation basics post, and for a more user-friendly version check out my free exfoliation guide.

What’s exfoliation again?

Your skin is covered in a thin protective layer of dead cells (the stratum corneum) which naturally shed over time in a process called desquamation. Sometimes this layer gets too thick, resulting in dull, rough skin. Exfoliants help the shedding along, resulting in more even, “glowier” skin.

What’s chemical exfoliation?

Chemical exfoliants help cells shed in a more indirect way than physical exfoliation, which works using friction between the tool or scrub and the skin. The mechanism of how chemical exfoliants work aren’t always obvious, but the most common theories and methods of how they work are:

  • by normalising cell turnover – that is, how quickly cells in the epidermis die and migrate to the stratum corneum, pushing old cells out. Exfoliants do this by travelling to living cells under the dead layer and telling them to change how they behave – in more technical terms, they act on receptors to upregulate cell division. (Technically, any ingredient that does this is a drug, but regulations around these “cosmeceuticals” is pretty iffy.)
  • by unsticking the cellular glue (desmosomes) holding dead cells together in the stratum corneum.

Chemical exfoliation is touted to be gentler than physical exfoliation, mostly because it’s less prone to user error. However, how well it works depends largely on the formulation of the product. A poorly formulated product might not work, or it might work so well that it irritates your skin and causes uneven pigmentation and chemical burns.

Product categories

Click on each heading to jump to that section.

Leave-on Hydroxy Acid Products

Hydroxy acids are the most common ingredients in chemical exfoliants. There are two main types:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which includes ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and mandelic acid. Glycolic and lactic acids are most common in skincare, and the vast majority of scientific studies on AHAs are based on the action of glycolic acid.
  • Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), of which salicylic acid is the only one commonly used in skincare (I’ll be using the terms “BHA” and “salicylic acid” interchangeably).

A few ingredients are technically both alpha and beta hydroxy acids such as citric acid, which acts more like an AHA.

It’s not 100% clear how AHAs and BHAs work to exfoliate the skin – it’s likely to be a combination of the two actions described at the beginning: increasing cell turnover at the epidermis and unsticking stratum corneum cells. As well as just removing build-up of skin, they can also improve hyperpigmentation and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

There are a few key differences between AHAs and BHA/salicylic acid:

  • Solubility: The commonly used AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid) are water soluble, while salicylic acid is oil soluble. Theoretically this means salicylic acid is better for treating oily skin and clogged pores because they can penetrate through sebum and sebum plugs, but there’s a lot of variation between people’s experiences. You’ll generally find AHAs in products for dry, ageing skin, and BHA in products for oily, acne-prone skin.
  • Sun sensitivity: Glycolic acid is documented to cause sun sensitivity for a while even after you finish using it, while salicylic acid isn’t. Salicylic acid has a UV protective effect while on the skin, due to the benzene ring in its structure which lets it act as a chemical sunscreen. You need to wear sunscreen while you use alpha hydroxy acids, and for at least a week after you finish – otherwise, you can actually cause more wrinkles and uneven pigmentation and sagginess than you started off with! And you should use sunscreen with salicylic acid anyway.
  • Other effects: Salicylic acid can have some anti-inflammatory action, depending on whether enough gets through the skin – it’s actually one of the active forms of aspirin. Glycolic and lactic acids are humectants that act to slow down the evaporation of water from the skin.

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Sunscreen Review: Biore, Jurlique, Elucent

biore-jurlique-elucent-sunscreen

These three facial sunscreens from Biore, Jurlique and Elucent have full ingredient lists. Yes you read that right – FULL INGREDIENT LISTS! My pet hate with Australian sunscreens is that even though you get decent UVA protection and they tell you the percentages of the active ingredients, they’re classified as medicines so a full ingredient list isn’t mandatory. A lot of manufacturers don’t provide one, to keep their formula more secretive I assume – which is well and good for the company, but annoying as hell for the buyer. You don’t know if they contain things you’re allergic to, or react with your skin, and you have no idea whether they’ll actually suit your skin type.

biore-jurlique-elucent-sunscreen

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+ PA++++

This ($15-25 for 50 g) is the reformulated version of the cult classic light-as-air, high protection sunscreen. The biggest change in Biore’s new UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is that it’s now PA++++, which is the highest rating available and translates to a UVA protection factor of 16+. It’s also not lumpy like the older formula, although the lumps smoothed out on application and were never an issue anyway. It still absorbs quickly, leaves a smooth base for makeup and is a little drying (it has a relatively high alcohol content), so it’s awesome for oily skin but you’ll be better off with a richer formula if you have dry skin.

Water, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Alcohol, Lauryl Methacrylate/Sodium Methacrylate Crosspolymer, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Dimethicone, Xylitol, Trisiloxane, Acrylates/C10-30 Acrylate Crosspolymer, Dextrin Palmitate, Glyceryl Stearate, C30-45 Alkyl Methicone, Agar, C30-45 Olefin, Potassium Hydroxide, Carbomer, Polyvinyl Alcohol, PEG 400, PEG-50 Hydrogenated Castor Oil Triisostearate, PEG-3 Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Royal Jelly Extract, Orange Fruit Extract, Grape Fruit Extract, Lemon Fruit Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Fragrance.

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How to Exfoliate 1: All About Physical Exfoliants

exfoliation-tools

Are you confused about how to choose the right exfoliation method for your skincare routine? This three-part series rounds up all the types of exfoliants for your face, with examples of products and their pros and cons!

This post covers all the physical exfoliation options. Part 2 will be on chemical exfoliation, and Part 3 will be a guide on how to choose the one(s) that will work for you. For a more barebones overview, check out this exfoliation basics post.

What is exfoliation?

Your skin consists of living skin (the epidermis), covered in a 15-20 layers of dead cells (the stratum corneum). The dead cells in the stratum corneum have an important role in protecting your living tissue from the outside environment. They’re completely replaced around every 2 weeks – the cells at the surface are constantly shedding. However, the shedding isn’t always regular, and sometimes it happens slower than it should. This leads to your skin being covered by too thick a layer of dead cells, which looks dull, uneven, scaly and flaky. Exfoliation helps the shedding along, ideally without compromising the ability of the stratum corneum to act as a barrier.

There are 2 main categories of exfoliation: physical and chemical. I’m including exfoliation tools under the banner of physical exfoliation, and enzymes in the chemical group.

What Is Physical Exfoliation?

Dead cells are buffed away mechanically using grainy products or tools. It’s a lot like sandpapering a block of wood or scrubbing tiles – the friction from rubbing an object back and forth over the skin lifts stuck cells.

Much like sandpapering wood, the harshness of physical exfoliation depends on a few factors:

  • what the exfoliating objects are like (how large, how hard, how smooth)
  • how you move them over your skin (how hard you press, what direction you go in, how long you rub it in for)

I personally find that rubbing lightly in small circles for a minute or two is more effective and less irritating than rubbing hard for a short period, with any physical exfoliation method.

Physical exfoliation has a reputation for being harsh, but I think it’s unfair – it can be very gentle, but most people use physical exfoliants way too frequently, and feel like it’s not working if they don’t feel raw and tingly afterwards. Don’t fall into this trap! It’ll make your skin worse in the long run, reducing the ability of the stratum corneum to act as a barrier against the outside world and prevent moisture from leaving (its barrier function).

Product categories

Click on each heading to jump to that section.

Plastic microbeads

These round beads are made of plastic and come in every imaginable colour. They used to be in tons of products because they’re really cheap and smoothly shaped, so they were budget-friendly and gentle on the skin.

However, it turned out that microbeads were an environmental pollutant – they made their way through the sewage system and into waterways, where environmental toxins (actual toxins) like pesticides latched onto them. When aquatic animals ate them, they would release the toxins. Nasty! (You can read more on microbead pollution on this post.)

Plastic microbeads were banned in a handful of US states after research showed that the beads were turning up everywhere. The Netherlands are in the process of phasing them out. Other Western countries are moving in this direction, so plastic microbeads are found in less products these days.

You’ll see them listed on the ingredients list as:

  • polyethylene
  • polypropylene
  • nylon-6
  • nylon-11
  • polymethyl methacrylate

You can find lists of microbead-containing and microbead-free products in your country on Beat the Microbead.

How to use

These are the standard scrub products – squeeze some into your hand, slap it on your clean face and rub around, then rinse.

Examples

plastic-microbead

It’s actually been quite difficult to locate plastic microbeads in my skincare collection – I only managed to find an old tube of Nivea Pure Effect All-in-1 Multi Action Cleanser, and a couple of Asian products (Muji Scrub Face Soap and Missha Cacao & Cream Facial Scrub).

There are lots of replacements for plastic microbeads available now, so you can still get your scrub on without as much guilt.

Jojoba Beads

One of the most popular replacements for plastic microbeads are jojoba beads. They’re made of chemically processed jojoba oil (the same process used to make solid margarine from liquid vegetable oil), and are usually listed as “hydrogenated jojoba oil” or “jojoba esters” in the ingredients list. These beads are translucent white, and they’re usually found in products as very fine grains.

How to use

Just like microbeads, these are straightforward scrubs. Rub them onto clean damp skin, rinse away afterwards.

Examples

jojoba-scrubs

These are particularly popular in products marketed as natural – they show up in Jurlique, Moreish and Neutrogena Naturals scrubs, as well as a Guinot Gentle Face Exfoliating Cream, a scrub/peeling gel hybrid. They’re popular but I’m personally not that fond of how they feel on my skin, so I don’t reach for these that often.

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