What I Am Starting With – Skincare – My 2019 “No Buy”

Related: Introducing my 2019 “No Buy”

New Year, new me, right? Well, not exactly.

I am a perfectionist and I like things to have a clear beginning, middle and end, so posting this on the first day of the New Year is almost symbolical to me. But I don’t share the view that the New Year will bring a New Me with it. I am the same person who is going to work on her flaws and try to better herself, to become a better version of what I already am.

Today I am starting to share with you the products that I currently own within the categories that my “No Buy” applies to. The first category is skincare, which I have broken down into further 10 subcategories: make-up remover, cleanser, scrub, actives, hydrator, serum, eye care, moisturiser, facial SPF, mask.

What I Am Starting With

Below is a breakdown of the numbers of what I currently own. I will not type out here each exact product by name, but it is something I have written by hand in my bullet journal, which I am using to help me track my progress. If you are doing an inventory of your own, or are planning any type of No or Low Buy, I strongly encourage you to do this as it hammers in the magnitude of what you have. Numbers alone don’t have the same effect.

Things that I have not included in this list are items that I did not purchase, that do not belong to me, and that are not my responsibility, but that I do use from time to time. In other words, products that I share with my mum, but which are hers more than mine. In contrast there are products we share in equal parts or even I use the majority of; those are included here.

MAKE-UP REMOVER – 3 day (for fixing mistakes while applying make-up), 3 night (heavy duty removal)

CLEANSER – 3 first cleansers, 8 second cleansers (4 of them are samples)

SCRUB – 2 scrubs (1 of them is a sample)

ACTIVES – 3 acid products, 8 vitamin C products, 1 retinol product

HYDRATOR – 10 products (1 of them is a sample)

SERUM – 6 products (2 of them are samples)

EYE CARE – 8 products (3 of them are samples)

MOISTURISER – 13 creams (7 of them are samples), 5 oils (3 of them are samples), 2 heavy duty (1 of them is a sample)

FACIAL SPF – 5 products (1 of them is a sample)

MASK – 11 products (1 of them is a sample)

TOTAL – 91 products, (24 of them are samples)

This means I have 67 full sized products across 10 different categories. That’s a lot of product.

Reflecting On What I Have

Before inventorising my stash I had hoped that I would be able to reduce what I own down to the bare necessities in about 6 months’ time, but seeing these numbers black on white makes me think otherwise. If I stick to my “No Buy” as I intend to, I estimate that I won’t need to buy any more product – at least in some of the categories – for another 12-18 months.

My top three areas of concern are moisturiser, vitamin C, and eye care.

Moisturisers for the sheer amount of product I have, although it’s also a category I work relatively quickly through. The fact that around half of them are samples isn’t hugely comforting, because I’ve already learned them to take a surprisingly long time to finish.

Vitamin C, again, because I have so much, and because it’s an ingredient prone to expiring. Only 2 of my 8 products contain pure L-Ascorbic Acid and they are both sealed, so I am not too worried about them, but the thought of them sitting in my stash makes me uncomfortable. This is definitely a category I am going to be paying extra close attention to.

Eye care, at a glance doesn’t look too terrible. Only 5 full sized products should be easy, right? Wrong. I already have the knowledge that samples last a tremendously long time. Most recently it took me a month of twice daily use to finish a deluxe sized sample. And I have 5 full sized products. This is mildly terrifying. I feel like I’m drowning in eye creams already.

Exceptions From The Rules

In my introduction I have outlined the initial rules to my “No Buy” and I would like to refer to two of them here:

  • I am NOT allowed to buy a product until I am down to the last one in its category, with some exceptions.
  • I AM allowed to shop sales for backups of my Holy Grail products if it’s in a category I work through quickly.

Upon reflection I see that the first rule really applies to the second – the exceptions are the Holy Grails.

The clear and definite Holy Grails at this present moment are:

  • Akamuti RosewaterHydrator – This is one of very few products that I allow myself to buy in bulk, and the reason is simple: it’s irreplaceable in my skincare routine, I use it consistently, and it’s cheaper for me to buy in bulk.
  • Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing GelHydrator – Another staple in my routine that I have written about here, but more easily replaceable than the Akamuti Rosewater; though not by choice. It fills a step in my routine that I refuse to take out, but currently it’s filled with another product that does the job okay. Now is the time to keep an eye out for a bargain, because I want this with me at all times.
  • The Hero Project Vit C-30Actives (vitamin C) – This is by far the best vitamin C I have ever tried, and one of few that I see to actually bring me visible results. The first time I bought it was a lucky find at TKMaxx for a reduced price. As I work near one of the stores, every now and then I pop in to see if I can get a back up and save money on it, because I know that I will for 100% repurchase it one day. Having said that, reflecting on the observations I made on my areas of concern above, I think I will stop this habit until I reduce my stock of vitamin C products by at least half.
  • The Body Shop Japanese Matcha Tea Pollution Clearing MaskMask – Truly tried and tested not just by me, but also by my mum, and a firm favourite with both of us in the cleansing mask compartment. Normally this never goes on any kind of sale, but twice I have been able to get it at a reduced price, and if another such opportunity arises I will snatch it up before anyone else can.

And this is it for today. I have a feeling that I’m missing out a few Holy Grails. But then again, if they don’t come to mind immediately they can’t be that important. We will learn in the months to come.

The next post will be a continuation of me sharing what I have, this time in bodycare and haircare. Both these categories are not as full as skincare, so I will combine them before tackling The Beast – Make-Up.

Anna Jo B.

Review – Extreme Senstive SPF50+ by Ultrasun

Ultrasun Body

Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

Extreme Sensitive SPF50+ by Ultrasun, body sunscreen, £22/100ml.

This is exciting, because this bottle is empty! Despite not getting a lot of daily exposure I have been trying really hard to keep up with my sun protection during the heat wave we’re having in the UK. I feel that this empty bottle is testament to my dedication; I am proud!

Ingredients and Texture
To keep it brief, this sunscreen is a physical and chemical hybrid formulated to be suitable for sensitive skin. This means it does not contain several potential irritants, but the ones I’m most excited about are no fragrance, mineral oil, or octinoxate – my Number 1 chemical to avoid in sunscreen. What is included are botanical extracts to nourish the skin and antioxidants to increase the skin’s ability to protect itself against outside aggressors.

In texture this cream is quite scary upon application – it’s like a thick lotion that takes some work to rub in, but it’s manageable. It’s difficult to tell, because I am very fair of skin tone, but on me this cream does not leave a white cast. In fact I kind of enjoy the fact that it takes a while to rub this cream in, because it helps to see how well you’re covering your skin, and after several seconds it absorbs completely. I find that I can feel it on my skin throughout the day, but it’s not suffocating. It will DEFINITELY get sticky when you get sweaty, but then again, you’ll be sticky with or without sunscreen – or at least I will be.

The packaging is great – simple but effective. It features an airless pump that not only preserves the product, but also ensures that you get every drop of it, and the bottle is made of sturdy and opaque plastic that again, preserves the product within. The bottle comes in a cardboard box which has a plethora of information printed on the inside walls, eliminating the need for wasteful leaflets that realistically no one ever reads. My favourite part is the instructions with recommended application.

Ultrasun Guide

As the majority of the population does not use enough product to warrant adequate protection, this is not only important but also very useful for the average consumer. I certainly have found it handy and it enlightened me about how much I should use.

If you haven’t been aware, here in the UK we have been having a crazy heat wave for the past couple of months and the sun is intense. As I’ve mentioned earlier, my skin is very fair in skin tone and although I do not burn crazy easily, the sun we’ve been enjoying would fry me up momentarily.

Since purchasing this sunscreen and wearing it daily I have not a trace of tan anywhere on my skin. I’ve had co-workers ask me if I stay indoors all day to avoid burning. I have strangers gush in disbelief at how fair I am remaining during this summer weather. Honestly, I’m a little shocked too, but very, very happy. As a bonus, after taking a shower my skin is soft and nourished after wearing this sunscreen. I have had absolutely no irritation whatsoever with it, so it certainly lives up to the “sensitive” claim.

I am very, very impressed. I was prepared for this cream to work well and keep me safe from burning based on my experience with the Facial Anti-Spot & Anti-Pollution Fluid SPF50+ from Ultrasun, but I wasn’t expecting to remain as pale as I would be in the dead of winter. I don’t enjoy the sticky feeling I get in intense heat, therefore I’ve decided to look for an alternative option to use on days when I have little sun exposure – eg. work days with not much more than the brief commute to and from work. But for days out on the beach, in the garden, in town, with a lot of time out in the sun, this will be my go to. 100% worth every penny.

Review – Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel by Benton

Benton Aloe

Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel by Benton, hydrating gel, £17.58/100ml.

Spoiler alert: I love and cherish this product like it’s my firstborn that brought eternal honour to the family (think Mulan).

At the beginning of the year 2018 I made some significant changes in my skincare routine. Up until then I was unhappy with the condition of my skin as I was continuously battling persistent acne and dryness with the occasional flare-up of eczema – but when it came it didn’t come to play, let me tell you that – since the age of 15. It’s been down to a mixture of reasons: hormonal imbalance (I have PCOS), stress, side effects from long term medication (steroids) and uneducated product misuse; these are just some of the reasons.During Christmas before that I had done some reading and binge watching on YouTube, I gathered as much information as I could and I came up with a new routine for my skin.

The aim of my new routine was to be absolutely minimal, very gentle, focus on hydration and protection, and most importantly not to overwhelm my skin. Prior to that I didn’t use that many products at a time, but I didn’t know a lot about what they were doing and I think I may have done some damage to myself because of that.

Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel is truly one of a kind, and a little unusual. It is without a doubt a gel, but less watery and more viscous in texture than you’d expect, so it’s almost reminiscent of a lotion. Upon application it glides smoothly and absorbs beautifully to make the skin feel instantly hydrated, but it also leaves a feeling of ever so gentle protection. I’ve been using it as my hydrating step after cleansing and toning, and before serums (if I’m using any) and moisturising. After about a week of use I started seeing a difference in my skin as it was clearly becoming more balanced from the ample hydration I was throwing at it. My complexion became slightly clearer and more glowing, my pores decreased in size ever so slightly and my skin was looking more plump with each day. After months of use my skin became unrecognisable with virtually no blemishes – something that I hadn’t experienced in at least 5 years – no dry patches and an overall fresh glow.

Let’s talk about the ingredients, because they are absolutely fantastic. It contains a host of incredibly soothing, nourishing and hydrating ingredients, 11/16 of which are botanical extracts. As could be expected from Korean skincare, some of these ingredients I had never heard of before, and the others had me enthusiastically nodding along with excitement.

Of the non-botanical ingredients we have glycerin and betaine – excellent humectants that draw moisture into the skin – and arginine, which has powerful healing properties and some anti ageing benefits. On the botanical side, the extracts from lichen and propolis have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, making the gel effective at treating acne, while extracts from portulaca, szechuan pepper and green tea serve as antioxidants. To sum it up, the contents of this gel do a bit of everything.

The packaging is very simple and fuss free with no bells and whistles. It’s a very ordinary plastic squeezy tube with minimalistic design that looks elegant on a curated skincare shelf. Benton clearly put substance above style and for that they get serious brownie points from me. The tube allows superb control of the amount of product dispensed. The plastic is completely opaque meaning it protects the gel inside from turning in reaction to sunlight. But the thing I appreciate the most is that once you get low on the product you can cut the tube open and scoop out the gel stuck to the sides, thus getting 100% of your money’s worth.

I simply adore Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel; the apple of my eye. Seven months ago my blemished, red, patchy skin was bringing me to tears and was seriously bringing down my confidence and today I can honestly say that I love my skin and am very happy in it. For the first time in years I leave the house makeup free and I feel absolutely no shame about it. I firmly believe that Soothing Gel is one of the main reasons for the improvement in my skin. Of course it would be plainly foolish to claim that it is solely responsible for my current clear complexion – my new routine consisted of 4-5 other products that were new to me, and as time went on and my skin was getting stronger and healthier I started incorporating more and more products. They all worked together to help me achieve my goal.

I recommend this product for all skin types. It will quench thirsty skin while on the oilier type it will nourish without overwhelming. This is especially fantastic for those who are looking to rehydrate and repair their skin that might be suffering from damage to their skin barrier caused by neglect and dehydration. And on more balanced skin this is a perfect all-in-one product to give your skin the daily hydration it needs and deserves. You basically can’t go wrong with it and it holds a very special place in my heart. 

Review – Face Brightening, Anti-Spot & Anti-Pollution Fluid SPF50+ by Ultrasun

Ultrasun SPF

Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

Face Brightening, Anti-Spot & Anti-Pollution Fluid SPF50+ by Ultrasun, facial sunscreen, £28/40ml.

My first ever experience with Ultrasun was with a body sunscreen that I’ve found incredibly effective. Upon realising that they also offer a variety of facial sunscreens I started digging and picked this as my first trial.

The Fluid is a hybrid of both chemical and physical protection against the sun. It boasts of patented technologies and makes many claims that make it sound like the Guardian Angel we’ve all been waiting for. On top of providing high protection from UVA/UVB radiation, the Fluid also claims to protect against infrared and pollution, to be fast absorbing, non-greasy, moisturising, ultra light, brightening and water resistant. It contains antioxidants like vitamins C and E for boosted benefits and a few botanical extracts to help nourish the skin. It doesn’t contain a lot of the nasties I try to avoid: octinoxate, fragrance and mineral oil being the main three.

I do not find this sunscreen fast absorbing, ultra light or non-greasy – but it’s not terrible. The most important thing is that it doesn’t break me out or dry out my skin while being highly protective. It’s rather thin in consistency, like a milky lotion, so it’s best to shake it up before applying. It’s relatively easy to spread across the face and rub in until absorbed, but I find that if I roughly spread across one area, focus on another, and go back to the first, it can get pretty tricky. It leaves the faintest of white casts; on my fair complexion it doesn’t bother me as it makes my skin tone look more even, but darker skinned people might find this a nuisance. I don’t like this to wear under makeup, as I find it just sits on my skin and as the day goes by, it will pill off my face – I’ve found it doesn’t mix well with oils, despite containing squalane. The Fluid leaves my face looking shiny and I can feel it on my skin most of the day.

I really appreciate the packaging of this product. It’s a squeezy bottle that’s sleek, small, fully opaque, and the cap is secure so you don’t have to fear any leakages if you put it in your bag. The box it comes in includes a guide to help you understand how much product you should be using for best protection – something I appreciate and have found very useful. All the information you will ever need is written on the box, inside and out, eliminating the need for leaflets that realistically no one ever reads.

This sunscreen is very effective in intense sun exposure, and for that, I take my hats off to it. It puts substance over style which I really appreciate. It’s very moisturising, non-irritating and has not broken me out. I do not enjoy wearing it due to its greasiness, pilling and mild discomfort of wearing, but I am willing to overlook this when times are hard. To sum it up, I do not intend to wear the Fluid on a daily basis, but on active days with intense sunshine and lots of exposure, this will be my Number 1 to go to and for that reason I will repurchase it when I run out.

Review – Silk Hydration Air Soft Face Lotion SPF30 by Hawaiian Tropic

Hawaiian Tropic SPF

Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

Silk Hydration Air Soft Face Lotion SPF30 by Hawaiian Tropic, facial sunscreen, £12/50ml.

A combination of physical and chemical protection, the Face Lotion offers broad spectrum SPF30 with a boost of 12 hours’ hydration. This is the second facial sunscreen that I’ve found enjoyable to apply and wear, and I prefer this one for its price and accessibility (I will talk about the first at a later time). This was actually an impulse buy, and I have no regrets. Though I had my doubts about it, the Face Lotion has quickly become a favourite that I’ve already stocked up on.

At first glance, looking at the ingredients list left me feeling a little unsure; it goes on forever, and the first three quarters consists of words I can’t even begin to try saying out loud. I’ll hold my hand up to the fact that sunscreen ingredients are not my strongest point, so I don’t know whether this is good or bad, but I raised an eyebrow. Fragrance in the middle of the list was a big red flag. But towards the end of the list we have hyaluronic acid, silk amino acids, a vitamin C derivative and several botanical extracts including aloe vera, all of which made my eyes light up. The vitamin C especially (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) sealed the deal for me, as antioxidants enhance skin’s ability to fight external aggressors, therefore it amplifies the effectiveness of the sunscreen. There is no drying alcohol and no octinoxate – something I actively try to avoid – in the ingredients, so I thought this is worth the risk, even with the fragrance.

The claims on the bottle are ultra light texture, 12 hour hydration, won’t clog pores, suitable to wear under make-up and water resistant.

The packaging is sleek and plastic and features an airless pump which allows superb control of how much product is dispensed. The Face Lotion is yellowy in colour and of a light cream consistency. It is incredibly easy to spread out and rub into the skin without dragging. It absorbs well without leaving a cast, though I like to leave it for a few minutes to dry before applying makeup. I can attest to the compatibility with make-up claim, because everything applies beautifully on top of the Face Lotion without pilling – my biggest pet peeve. It also feels very hydrating but not at all heavy. It gives a bright glow – some might say shine – that I personally love, though I realise those with oilier skins might find it too much. At first when I applied this the fragrance made my skin feel numb and cold for a few seconds, but after a week of use I no longer get this reaction. I have been using this sunscreen for over a month now and I have no irritation, no breakouts, no sunburn, only a beautiful glow and hydrated skin. I haven’t been able to test it with water, but it doesn’t bother me either way as I would just re-apply after swimming. By the way, it smells lovely.

I was a little wary about this sunscreen to begin with… Too many times in my experience cheaper meant worse, and the affordability of this product (it’s always on offer somewhere) worried me that it would not be suited to my skin. I would prefer for this to not contain fragrance and to offer higher protection. But for how well it applies, makes my skin feel, wears under makeup, causes no irritation and contains no nasties (aside from fragrance) that I try to avoid, this one is a winner. I’m already stocking up on it during the summer sales.

Review – UV Super Moisture Milk by Skin Aqua

Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

UV Super Moisture Milk by Skin Aqua, facial sunscreen, £11.62/100ml.

This won’t take long. I don’t like it. It broke me out, and when I used it on my chest I burned.

Let’s talk about the positives. This Japanese cult favourite has SPF50+ with a PA rating of ++++ – every skincare junkie’s dream. Though tiny and a bit of an eye sore, the bottle is well made, light, sleek, it has a squeezy nozzle and the cap screws on nicely without any trouble. The product is runny in consistency – indeed, like milk – and feels like a very light lotion going on the skin. Because of this applying a large amount isn’t a bothersome chore, which can often be the issue with sunscreens. It absorbs well without leaving a white cast, and my favourite thing about this is that it contains no alcohol or fragrance – heaven for my dry skin. One of the greatest highlights of this sunscreen is no drying alcohol which is near impossible to find in Asian sunscreen.

On the negative side I feel that the Moisture Milk made me a little bit greasy, which I think must have been the cause of my breaking out. I don’t know what it is, but while applying it it feels wonderfully moisturising yet something feels terribly off. Makeup did not wear well with this and I pilled around my hairy areas (hairline, brows). In the end this broke me out and I delegated it to body use, but it’s proven to be nothing more than a light lotion.

A brief look through the ingredient list brings no suspects to my attention that could indicate why I reacted to this. I’m also shocked that I burned with it, as I know this to be a favourite product of many people around the globe. Admittedly I bought this on Amazon, so perhaps it was an expired product… I don’t know, but this experience had been bad enough to make me not want to buy it again, especially as I’ve found a favourite since.

Again, in a nutshell, I simply don’t like Moisture Milk and enjoy very little about it. I’m going to assume it’s down to my skin being particularly finicky, because I’ve only seen good reviews about it thus fat. I will not repurchase this sunscreen and based on my experience I would not recommend it to anyone else either.

Review – Gentle Cleansing Milk by REN

REN cleanser

Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

Gentle Cleansing Milk by REN, milk cleanser, £19.00/150ml.

The Evercalm range by REN is catered towards sensitive skin that’s not very happy, whether because of dryness, reactivity or acne. The lovely thing about Evercalm is that sensitive skincare generally can be used on all skin types. This cleanser was my very first experience with the brand.

True to its name, this cleanser is gentle and milky. So gentle and milky in fact, that I find it suitable only for my morning cleanse; it leaves behind a light and soothing blanket of feeling moisturised which in and of itself I love, but I find that because of it the Gentle Cleansing Milk can’t handle tackling the residue from the first cream or oil cleanser I would use in the evening.

This cleanser contains several ingredients whose properties are to soothe, nourish and moisturise; packed with fatty alcohols, shea butter, moisturising oils like sunflower or sesame seed and a handful of other botanical extracts. I find myself really feeling the effect of the oils used in this product because after washing and drying my face it feels as though I had already moisturised it. I personally love this effect, but I think others especially with oilier skin types wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I do. I’m a little confused about the presence of several essential oils and artificial fragrance in a product that’s aimed at sensitive skin… I suppose it’s there to improve the sensory experience of using a more expensive product, but personally I would rather be without it. The scent this addition achieves is very herbal that’s great first thing in the morning.

Gentle Cleansing Milk can be used on wet or dry skin, but I personally prefer to do it wet and delicately massage my face as I cleanse. Whenever I tried it dry I felt like I needed twice as much product and it didn’t feel as milky going on, but rinsing off almost makes it foamy and it takes a thorough rinse to completely remove. I highly doubt this will take off anything more than just the stress of the day/night (hopefully you’re not stressing at night!). Despite the added fragrance I use this directly on the eyes with absolutely no irritation.

I find this a truly fantastic option for my skin needs and I think that anyone with dry and sensitised skin would enjoy this cleanser as part of their routine. Yes, there are a few eyebrow raisers for irritated skins, but I think that the nourishing oils preceding them in the ingredients combat any potential damage they could cause. But, at the end of the day it’s all a personal choice.

At first I thought that this one bottle of Gentle Cleansing Milk would be enough for me in my life because it’s not revolutionary. However, as time goes by and I’ve used it every morning for about three months, I’m getting more and more hooked. I think this might end up being a repurchse!