April 2016 Birchbox Review #1: Dr. Jart Liftra Contour Cream

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When a good brand puts out something that looks gimmicky.

Sometimes, you’ll see a product and immediately give it the side-eye because it has “gimmick” written all over it. It happens with unfamiliar and well loved brands. This is one of those situations.

I love trying new skincare to see what’s out there. I’ve actually seen the “contour” skincare trend out in Sephora, so I was glad to receive something related in my Birchbox just to see what the fuss was about.

Skincare contouring isn’t like makeup contouring (duh). What these products claim to do is infuse the skin with collagen, which will make the skin lift and return any elasticity that has faded with age. Ok, so really this just collagen skincare renamed. Dr. Jart’s Liftra Contour Cream (USD $60.00, full size 50 ml) claims the same thing: “With a skin-fitting formula of polymer and collagen threads, it attracts moisture and elasticity for a clear complexion while lifting and tightening. Meanwhile, three kinds of peptide complex ensure all active ingredients are fully absorbed.” This cream is also meant to be used in specific areas of the face and neck that would need lifting.

I do like some of Dr. Jart’s products. Their Ceramide serum is a current regular in my nighttime routine. But with skincare, especially at the $60 price point, only one thing matters: ingredients. I did my research and I was pleasantly surprised to find some stellar ingredients. Here are the stars of the show:

  • Glycerin: A skin-identical and skin-repairing ingredient that has great lipids to help moisturize and repair the skin. I was pleasantly surprised to see this listed at the very top of the ingredients list.
  • Niacinamide: aka Vitamin B3, which helps aging skin improve elasticity, tone, texture, and discoloration. It’s a stellar cell-communicating ingredient. Also listed at the top of the ingredients!
  • Shea Butter: a well-known great ingredient that delivers tons of anti-oxidants to help nourish skin.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: aka Vitamin E, which helps repair skin. It’s listed towards the middle of the ingredient list.
  • Linseed Oil: aka linoleic acid, which acts as an anti-oxidant and skin-barrier repair.
  • Adenosine: an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: aka, hyaluronic acid, whose praise I’ve sung many times. You know just how much I believe everyone should be using this in their skincare. Sadly, this is closer to the bottom of the ingredient list. I would have loved to have seen it listed higher.
  • Glutathione: a really potent anti-oxidant.
  • Lecithin: which as a cell communicating ability.
  • Caprylic/capric triglyceride: a great emollient and skin-repairing ingredient derived from coconut.
  • Milk lipids: help with skin discoloration.
  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate: aka Vitamin C, which helps with skin discoloration.

While there were a ton of great ingredients for aging skin, I did find some red flag ingredients that aren’t the best for leave-in skincare products:

  • Lavandin oil: this is a fragrant ingredient derived from lavender. It can really irritate sensitive skin.
  • Cananga odorata: aka ylang ylang oil, is a skin irritant and can actually make skin more sensitive.
  • Pelargonium graveolens oil: aka geranium oil, it can be skin irritant. However, this is when it’s derived as a fragrant. In its other form, it is a good anti-oxidant. I’m going to give the cream the benefit of the doubt and say it’s in the good form, but I’m not sure.

So knowing the ingredients, how did this cream perform? Here’s the thing: I still have relatively young skin. I recently turned 28 and there isn’t much aging to correct (yet). I tried using this on the potentially problematic areas of face, but this cream was way too hydrating for my combination skin. I was seeing a lot of oil building up wherever I was applying this, even at night.

This isn’t a bad thing, though! This cream is made for older skin, which loses moisture and dries as we age. This is actually a great consistency for very dry skin. It was just a little too much for my combination skin.

I didn’t want to waste the sample, so I decided to use this on my neck as a moisturizer. Using this has kept my skin incredibly soft and hydrated. I can appreciate it for that. I do have some ring lines around my neck that we all have and I did notice that their appearance did improve. They were softened by the cream, which is a testament for the ingredients.

Now, this is $60, which is quite a bit of money. Is this worth it? I’m torn. It does contain a majority of stellar and good ingredients that you need to be looking for if you want an anti-aging emollient moisturizer. However, those two fragrant ingredients do concern me. They are listed closer to the bottom of the ingredient list, but I’m not sure if delicate, aging skin should be putting a leave-in with fragrance. I can say that anyone with sensitivity to fragrance needs to avoid this. You may not get an immediate reaction, but over time you could start reacting to it.

Rating: 3/5. Despite the gimmicky name, this product does deliver. I’m happy to see that for $60 you are getting a lot of great ingredients and not a bunch of skincare fillers. This is formulated to be potentially great for aging skin problems. However, the presence of two irritating ingredients is concerning. At the end of the day, I’d say it’s up to the consumer. The fragrance could be in such small amounts that it’s not harmful, but I don’t really have a way of knowing this. Personally, I would say you should look for fragrance-free formulas. But I know that can be tricky in the skincare world, especially in pricier formulas, so if someone wanted to try this I wouldn’t try to talk them out of it. If Dr. Jart did reformulate this and remove those irritants, I would 100% recommend this.

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March 2016 Birchbox Review #3: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

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When face creams are inexplicably expensive.

I like trying different moisturizers for my nighttime routine, when I want a little more hydration. During the day, I use my holy grail Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Moisture Gel. It’s perfect for keeping my t-zone in control. But I’m still on the search for a great nighttime moisturizer. I’d just used up the Tucker Ashley sample that Ipsy had sent me, which I loved, but it’s not very readily available. I’m on the search for something at one of my regular stores.

Birchbox sent over Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream (USD $27.50, for 1.7 oz), and I was down to try it out. While not the priciest moisturizer on the market, it’s definitely way above drug store prices and you’re not even getting a full two ounces. I expect good things from you, Kiehl’s.

With moisturizers, two things matter: ingredients and packaging.

Let’s start with the good news. There are some pretty great ingredients listed. Collagen, various naturally derived (non irritating oils), squalane, and glycerin among other ingredients are great for repairing and hydrating skin. Now despite some good ingredients, this cream is missing two key ingredients I look for in all facial moisturizers: hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Now a days, any moisturizer without these two key skin repairing and moisturizing ingredients just isn’t worth your time.

Kiehl’s does claim that the magical properties of squalane and desert plant extract fortify the skin to withstand harsh conditions. Now, it did do a great job of hydrating my combination skin without leaving my t-zone feeling greasy. But in all honesty, there probably isn’t enough in the cream so you can get the same resilience as their plant sources. (Meaning, this is kind of gimmicky.)

Also of great note is that this cream doesn’t contain any irritants, including zero fragrance. This is a big plus. It means it’s pretty sensitive skin friendly. There is one paraben in the ingredients (which isn’t a big deal), but if you’re avoiding those you probably won’t want to use this.

I’d be willing to (somewhat) forgive the lack of important skin repairing ingredients if it weren’t for the biggest offender: jar packaging. I’ve ranted before about how awful jar packaging is. (TL;DR: it makes ingredients break down faster and exposes the product to bacteria and other contaminants.) It doesn’t matter how “fancy” jar packaging may make a product seem, it’s just something that skin care should avoid. Since Kiehl’s chose jar packaging for their cream, that means that in a few uses the product will be contaminated, leaving you prone to breakouts, and the delicate naturally derived ingredients will begin to break down as soon as you open the jar.

This is really too bad, because this could actually have been a decent product for sensitive skin people.

Rating: 2/5. I would have probably rated this a 3, if it weren’t for that darn jar packaging. While there are some good ingredients and this is fragrance free, I’m just not convinced that this moisturizer is worth the price. Had it included hyaluronic acid and ceramides in its formula, it would have absolutely been a great moisturizer to recommend. If they do change their packaging in the future, I would be more willing to recommend it. As it stands, save your $28 and look elsewhere.

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