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.
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.
A quick recap of the general notes I made on the products overall:
Lots of ingredients backed by scientific research
Only a few actives in each product (generally… Buffet is a different story), so the products give you lots of options for customising your routine
Dropper packaging is convenient for dispensing small amounts easily
No parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, animal oils, benzalkonium chloride, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, mercury, oxybenzone, alcohol, silicone, nuts; not tested on animals and vegan.
Good for: congested skin, hyperpigmentation (dark scars, sun spots), oily skin
Like for Advanced Retinoid 2%, there’s a big warning that this product isn’t intended for acne treatment, and to use benzoyl peroxide or tretinoin instead (they also say they don’t recommend salicylic acid, but I’m not sure why). It might be to preemptively ward off a warning about drug-like claims, but most companies do that by simply not mentioning acne, instead of making a big disclaimer. They do use “reduce the look of” and “visible” in their directions, which is definitely to avoid those drug-like claims that cosmetic products aren’t allowed to make (it’s pretty silly and outdated regulation in my opinion since consumers ignore that disclaimer and it means any company can claim anything, so I’m looking forward to the day it gets overhauled).
Niacinamide: aka vitamin B3. According to peer-reviewed studies, it does a whole bunch of everything in skincare:
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…
Last week I reviewed NIOD – this week I’m reviewing some products from Hylamide, another brand under the Deciem umbrella. Hylamide is a bit less pricey than NIOD, but researching the ingredients in these products was possibly more of a mammoth task than for NIOD. While NIOD tends to have more “silver bullet”, one-ingredient products, Hylamide formulas have a greater range of actives which act together to accomplish the same goal. The products I tried were SubQ Anti-Age Serum, Pore Control, HA Blur, Pore Delete and Photography Foundation.
SubQ Anti-Age Serum
SubQ Anti-Age Serum ($59.95 AUD for 30 mL) is a hydrating treatment that targets lines, wrinkles and skin texture. It contains 5 types of hyaluronic acid and a handful of peptides. Unfortunately, most of the actives don’t have independent studies, so it’s difficult to say how effective they are, but here are the claims:
Copper lysinate/prolinate: should help copper ions enter the skin, where it’s used in collagen production.
Nonapeptide-3 retino-complex: a peptide/retinol combo that’s supposed to work as well as retinol with less irritation.
Palmitoyl tripeptide-38: Hylamide calls this an “advanced form of Matrixyl”, a popular anti-aging peptide that can reduce the appearance of lines and even out skin texture.
Hyaluronic acid: non-animal-origin, two forms of very-low-molecular hyaluronic complex, a novel hyaluronic acid precursor, tamarind-derived plant hyaluronic form. I’m not entirely sure what they all are, but it sounds like they’d all act as water-holding humectants that can hydrate skin at various depths, much like the awesomely hydrating hyaluronic acid products from For Beloved One.
SubQ comes in a dropper bottle which I quite liked. It smells a little weird (like very weak beer, probably from the hydrolysed yeast extract) but it’s unnoticeable after a few minutes. The serum sinks into skin very quickly, and would be suitable to use during the day (though I only used it at night). I could definitely feel the increased hydration while using this product – my cheeks were plump and bouncy and smooth in the morning.
Pore Control Booster ($29.95 AUD for 30 mL) is a serum that’s designed to reduce oil and pores. However, instead of drying out the skin like you’d normally expect, it’s actually designed to increase skin hydration, using actives to decrease the appearance of pores and sebum instead.
Again, there’s the problem where the active ingredients aren’t substantiated by independent studies. The actives Pore Control contains are:
Bitter mushroom concentrate: causes pores to be less visible in number and size
Marine ferments: balance out shiny appearance without drying out skin
Pistacia lentiscus tree resin: skin looks and feels more “pure”
Surface balance peptides: improve skin texture without skine
Zinc PCA, niacinamide and panthenol: reduces shine and sebum
The best supported ingredient here is niacinamide, which has been found to reduce sebum and pore size in a few studies, though it’s far from a sure bet. Niacinamide has a whole host of benefits apart from sebum and pore reduction, and it’s ingredient number 3 in this product, so if nothing else, this is a great niacinamide serum. I didn’t notice a huge reduction in pores or sebum while using this, but my skin is quite hydrated and healthy otherwise so I’m not sure there’s much that can be done. It works really well under sunscreen and makeup, so if you’re after a daytime niacinamide product this could be a contender.
Today I’m reviewing the Hyaluronic Acid Moisturisingseriesfrom For Beloved One, a popular Taiwanese cosmeceutical skincare brand that’s just been launched at Sephora Australia. I haven’t had much experience with Taiwanese skincare (apart from My Beauty Diary, the brand that produces the super popular and affordable sheet masks), so I was excited to try these out!
For Beloved One’s skincare products contain a laundry list of patented ingredients that, while not all supported by independent peer-reviewed evidence (which, let’s face it, very little skincare is), have plausible mechanisms for what they do – in the case of the Hyaluronic Acid Moisturising range, hydrate the heck out of your skin.
Here are some of the featured ingredients in the range:
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant moisturiser that’s the absolute bee’s knees at hydrating your skin by grabbing onto water and keeping it from evaporating. In its usual form (as high molecular weight hyaluronic acid), it’s a long chain molecule made up of thousands of sugar units. This makes it too large to enter the skin, so it can only effectively hydrate the upper layers.
There’s also low molecular weight hyaluronic acid or hydrolysed hyaluronic acid, where the hyaluronic acid has been broken up into smaller fragments, which means it can penetrate and hydrate deeper in the skin. It also seems to have a signalling role, and can decrease wrinkle depth, I’m guessing through hydrating the skin. For Beloved One’s products use Hyalo-Oligo as their source of low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, which has an average weight of 7 kDa (7000 Da), along with high molecular weight hyaluronic acid.
GHK-Cu (Copper Tripeptide-1)
There are only a few peptides with multiple published studies to show that they will actually act on the skin, and GHK-Cu is one of them! This peptide is made up of 3 amino acids (glycine-histidine-lysine) and has a strong attraction for copper. When applied to skin, it increases the production of collagen, an important substance in the skin which gives it its plumpness (the skin’s collagen content decreases with age and with sun damage). It also promotes the production of other important skin components elastin, proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans, keeping the skin firm and plump.
GHK-Cu is thought to mostly work by carrying copper into cells (as a carrier peptide), as copper is an important part of the enzymes that make collagen and elastin. Some of the products also contain malachite extract, which has copper and zinc.
PatcH2O is an interesting mix of water-holding humectants – there are the long-chain humectants algin (from the cell walls of algae) and pullalan (from a fungus) as well as hyaluronic acid that can be thousands of atoms long, mixed with small humectants like urea, glycerin and serine. Together this makes a humectant film that slowly releases humectants to be absorbed deep into the skin (at least according to its manufacturer BASF), and claims to be able to sustain this hydration for 48 hours.
Here’s the full ingredients list for this ingredient: Water, Glycerin, Trehalose, Urea, Serine, Pentylene Glycol, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Algin, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Pullulan, Disodium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate.