Today’s Best of 2017 is focusing on Cruelty Free Skincare. This is a bit of a tricky category for me because 2017 was the year that I finally started taking Accutane for my stubborn acne. If you’re unfamiliar, Accutane is an often controversial drug taken to (hopefully) “cure” treatment-resistant acne. It has the side effect of completely drying out everyone’s skin, so the second half of the year I was doing everything I could to keep my formerly combo-to-oily skin as hydrated as possible while taking the drug. Having said that, you now know what skin types we are working with here, and since I had two majorly different concerns throughout the year, I will specify which type of skin I had while using the product if it’s relevant. If it worked well either way, I won’t specify the skin type unless it’s still somehow relevant. So, with that out of the way, let’s just get going because there is a lot!
We’ll start where I would begin my skincare routine, at least at night, and go first to makeup remover. I tried the Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm this past year and instantly fell in love! This is kind of a semi-solid texture – I think I saw someone call it a “sherbet cleanser” once and that seems pretty accurate. To use, I scoop a tiny bit out that’s maybe a bit larger than a pea, distribute it between my fingers and then massage it into my skin. Upon contact it kind of melts and turns into not quite an oil, but almost. It actually feels really nice! I use it all over, including my eyes. It’s very gentle and easily breaks down all the makeup clinging to my face. After working the product into my skin for maybe 30 seconds, I splash my face with a bit of water and work the now emulsified cleanser into my skin further. Now’s when the makeup really melts! After rubbing that in for another 30 seconds or so, I rinse it all away with yet more water. You could use a washcloth if you prefer too. For me, it’s a really enjoyable step that removes my makeup really well, rinses clean and leaves my skin – no matter which type – feeling comfortable! A definite winner in my book!
Since I am a fan of the double cleanse and I don’t use makeup remover in the mornings, let’s move on to cleansers. The first one, though I occasionally use it with my dry, sensitive, Accutane-battered skin, is one I predominately used prior to starting Accutane. The main reason for that is because it is a mildly exfoliating cleanser and you’re not meant to exfoliate the skin while taking Accutane. I should tell you what it is, huh? 😄 It is the Sibu Polishing Facial Cleanser and I have a more thorough review here. In a nutshell, it’s a nice gentle cleanser with a gel-like consistency that comes in a pump. Like I said, it has some kind of gentle exfoliant in it, but I can’t figure out what it is. All I know is that it makes my skin feel refreshed and clean without ever feeling dry or stripped and I really love it! If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend checking it out!
I was also a huge fan of oil cleansers in 2017. There are two that I have especially loved – the Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and the Derma E Rose Argan Cleansing Oil. Both are actually somewhat similar in the feel on the skin. They are very soothing and keep my skin feeling soft and supple. I have compared the two in this post if you would like more info about each one and how I use them.
Getting into some hydrating products, a favorite that I’ve only used while on Accutane, but see no reason why any skin type wouldn’t benefit from and love is the NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex, or MMHC2. It’s basically an advanced Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid is a wonderful ingredient that attracts and absorbs an insane amount of water (1,000 times its weight!), and it really pulls moisture deep into the skin. The consistency feels pretty much like water, and it really plumps the skin, while keeping it hydrated from the inside out. It’s a wonderful ingredient and would be particularly good for those with dehydrated skin. The NIOD version of this wonder product contains 15 types of hyaluronic compounds which hydrates the skin in a multitude of ways for optimal hydration. Whether you go with the NIOD version of this wonder ingredient or prefer a different brand, I feel like Hyaluronic Acid is a real game changer that everyone should use!
Before the Accutane, I absolutely loved the Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel. This is a great moisturizer for anyone who doesn’t need anything too heavy, but still wants a good, hydrating product to end their skincare routine. I used this at night and I would wake up with incredibly soft, comfortable, hydrated, plumped skin. It’s an absolutely beautiful gel-like moisturizer that really packs a punch without making you feel greasy. Perfect if your skin tends more towards oily. If your skin tends to be dry, this may not be enough hydration for you, but combo to oily skin types need to try this!
On the other end of the spectrum, when my skin has been beyond dry, I’ve found so many amazing products to keep it feeling comfortable and not looking or feeling dry. My first favorite is a facial oil from Derma E. It is their Illuminating Rosehip & Cranberry Face Oil, which is an oil blend of Rosehip, Cranberry and Pumpkin Seed Oils. This is just a good all-around oil cocktail with a decent weight – not too heavy, not too light – that absorbs quickly. I feel it’s more suited for combo to dry skins, but it does absorb quickly enough that it may work at night for oilier skin types as well. I really like that it’s a blend of a variety of wonderfully beneficial oils. It’s just an all-around lovely oil that’s kept my skin nice and hydrated, plumped and comfortable.
Another fantastic oil for dry skin is The Ordinary’s 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil. I had tried another brand of Marula Oil when my skin was oily and it was just heavy and not good – I think both because of that brand’s oil quality as well as my oilier skin type at the time. However, if you have dry skin, I highly recommend trying Marula Oil! It’s a thicker and slightly heavier oil, but it absorbs relatively quickly and doesn’t feel greasy on the skin. I think it probably moisturizes better than any of the other oils I’ve tried! It is also high in antioxidants so it’s good for anti-aging as well. This is probably my favorite oil right now as a dry-skinned person. If you’re in a similar boat, give Marula Oil a go!
If oils aren’t your thing but you need a great hydrating night moisturizer for drier skin, I have fallen in love with the Derma E Hydrating Night Cream. This is a thick, rich, but almost whipped moisturizer that is like a big old drink of hydrating goodness for the skin. If you saw my Accutane Skincare Routine post, you will have seen that I was using this or the Farmacy Sleep Tight Firming Night Balm as my last step at night. After using the Derma E a bit longer, I absolutely prefer it to the Firming Night Balm. Though that’s a great product, it does have a greasier texture that I feel many people may not appreciate. It didn’t bother me, but I do like the more traditional cream texture of the Derma E and recommend it to anyone struggling with dry or dehydrated skin.
For facial sunscreens, I’ve been enjoying two since starting the Accutane (Strangely I cannot remember what I was using before), though they could work for anyone. The first I typically use on a day-to-day basis and it is the Farmacy Green Screen Daily Environmental Protector Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. I like this because it’s pretty light on the skin – I don’t notice it, but it does take a minute or two to absorb. It does not leave a white cast on my skin and it also protects against environmental assailants that can cause premature aging. It’s a lovely mineral sunscreen and I’ve really been enjoying it!
For a moisturizer and sunscreen combination, I’ve enjoyed reaching for the Andalou Naturals DIY Booster SPF 30 Facial Serum on days where I’m running out the door and not going through my standard skincare routine. This is a nice, lightweight moisturizer with the added benefits of anti-aging ingredients as well as a mineral and a chemical sunscreen. I feel like any skin type would like this sunscreen and it’s definitely a great grab-and-go kind of product. Lovely!
Moving into some treatment products, I haven’t been able to use any of these after starting the Accutane, but before that, I could not live without them! My biggest favorite for the past few years is the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, which I have reviewed here. This is a retinol oil which means that it has the benefits of retinol – anti-aging, can help with acne, may help reduce pore size, exfoliates the skin, etc. – but by housing this miracle worker in an oil, it’s less harsh and irritating to the skin. It’s absolutely lovely…though mighty pricey! I found that it not only reduced my pore size, improved my acne a bit (though clearly didn’t eliminate it), and hydrated my skin slightly. I experienced no irritation whatsoever and once able, I intend to go back to this wonder product immediately!
Another fantastic product for skin clarity, hyperpigmentation and gentle chemical exfoliation is The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2%. This is a fantastic alternative to the famous Sunday Riley Good Genes, but I feel that The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid works even better! In addition to gently resurfacing the skin, Lactic Acid also helps draw moisture into the skin, making it particularly good for those with dry skin. I was using it while combo / oily skin and had no issues either. Again, I had no irritation from this though it may be problematic for some. Also, with this and the above-mentioned Luna, make sure to wear a sunscreen during the day as they both make the skin more sensitive to the sun’s damaging rays. Also, do not use both the Luna and the Lactic Acid at the same time of day as they are both chemical exfoliants and you may do more harm than good. You might want to alternate them every other day even. When I was using them, I used the Luna at night and the Lactic Acid in the morning without issue, but it’s possible that it could have been too much. All that said, I definitely noticed positive improvements in the appearance of my skin tone and clarity when using The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid.
I had a few mask favorites that are somewhat similar in 2017 as well. Again, I used all of them them before Accutane because they are chemical exfoliant masks. The first – and my personal favorite – is the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask. It has a light jelly-like consistency. The mask combines two fruit acids that are high in BHA (salicylic acid) to gently eat away at dead skin cells, leaving the skin clearer, brighter, healthier looking and baby soft. I left this on for maybe 20 minutes before rinsing off and then applying moisturizer. It’s another product I really wish I could go back to using right now! 😄 The Resurfacing Mask is fantastic and I could not recommend it more highly!
A similar mask is from Herbivore and it is the Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask (mine has seen better days! Think it’s time for a new one 😳). I have a more thorough review of it here. The Herbivore Mask is another gel-consistency mask that contains both salicylic acid and alpha hydroxyl acids to gently exfoliate and unclog pores. The addition of Blue Tansy, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s also in the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, helps soothe and reduce redness. I found this mask really did calm and clear my skin when my acne was really flaring up, though I should caution that it could also end up irritating sensitive skins because it is an acid based exfoliant. If you’re particularly sensitive, you might want to do a patch test near your jaw line first. Personally I had no issues with irritation. I simply found that it made my skin look brighter, feel softer and just seem healthier after using. Another lovely mask option, especially if you are suffering from congested or acne-prone skin.
For a physical exfoliant, I again have two favorites. Both I have found to be gentle enough not to irritate my skin while on Accutane, but I’m not certain that they really should be used so please talk to your dermatologist if also taking the drug. The first, and most gentle, is the Odacite Jojoba Bead Scrub (full review here). This is just a lovely, but gentle scrub consistency. The “scrub” comes from jojoba beads (perfectly round waxy beads created from jojoba oil) which are suspended in a nice light cream. The cream consistency kind of protects the skin while the gentle beads – and yes, these are safe to dispose down the drain – gently slough away dead skin without tearing, scraping, or otherwise damaging the delicate skin. Your skin is left soft, smooth and radiant. It’s a fantastic scrub that I think even pretty sensitive skin types would get along with!
A slightly harsher physical exfoliant is the Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder. I believe the directions say to mix this powder with water, but I find that too harsh. I like to mix the tiniest amount of the loose powder in with an oil cleanser and then apply to the skin, gently rubbing in circles before rinsing away. It basically has a gritting consistency that, again, leaves my skin soft, smooth, healthy and glowing. It’s a lovely scrub that can easily be added into your standard face wash (depending on what you use), and a small amount goes a long way.
I’m not sure where to put lip balms, so we’re going to put them here! I have one favorite from the time I’ve been on Accutane and it is the Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. I’ve gone through multiple tubes of this stuff even though one tube lasts forever. I just reapply constantly. 😄 This does contain petroleum jelly and I think beeswax which I would prefer it didn’t, but it’s just perfect when your lips are beyond dry! It can actually be used anywhere you experience dryness – cuticles, elbows (they sell it in large tubs, though I’ve been sticking with the tubes as they seem more hygienic and easier to stash everywhere), around the nose, inside the nose – yes, that’s a thing on Accutane! It’s just one of those multi-purpose balms / ointments that works brilliantly! Though I’m not really sure what hydrating ingredients are in this, I think part of its magic is as a protector from the elements. It also helps keep whatever moisture is in the lips / skin from escaping. And to add a bit more help, it also contains papaya extract to gently exfoliate. Whatever is in this, it has kept my lips relatively comfortable despite the extreme drying aspects of the Accutane (and now the bitter cold!), and I have not experienced any peeling, cracking, bleeding or other nastiness. I owe it all to the Papaw Ointment!
Before on the Accutane, I had two go-to lip balms – one for day and one for bedtime. They are both fantastic and I look forward to a time when my lips are more normal so I can go back to using them! The first is my evening “treatment” and it is the Kari Gran Tinted Lip Whip (another one that I’ve reviewed before). I’ve loved this for a few years and, like the Papaw tubes, I’ve gone through multiple jars. It is a thick, nourishing and hydrating balm that sticks to the lips nicely without being sticky, tacky, greasy or just uncomfortable in some way. It’s just the perfect consistency! I don’t love that it comes in a jar because I’m dipping my finger in and out to use it – partly why I only use it at night – but I can live with that for the wonderful results. It’s one of those balms that still feels essentially the same when I wake up in the morning as it did when I applied at night. Under normal conditions, this is just perfect for keeping my lips soft, smooth and flake-free!
Since I typically only use the Kari Gran at night, I need something for the daytime as I am a lip balm addict. 😄 I initially didn’t like this favorite because I was used to a much firmer lip balm, but after giving it a few tries, I fell in love and have never looked back! It is the Hurraw! Lip Balm. Breaking news…I’ve reviewed it here. 😄 I tend to go for the “Coconut” flavor, but I’ll take any of them because I don’t notice any difference in formula between flavors in the “Classic” line. It’s just a great hydrating and protective balm that lasts on the lips, even surviving drinking. I do reapply throughout the day, but not excessively. I also like to use this as a prep step before lipstick (including liquid lipsticks), often applying it right before the lipstick, giving it a gentle blot, and then applying the lipstick. It works great for keeping your lips better moisturized while not causing the lipstick to slip off too easily. I also love the oval shape! Easier to jam into a tight pocket and applies well to the lips. Just a brilliant lip balm and I highly recommend it!
I was planning to put a couple of body products in here too, but I think I’ll save that for tomorrow’s shorter list of “The Other Stuff” since this is insanely long! If you’ve stuck through this far, you are a true champ and I feel I should give you some sort of reward! 🤪 It was an odd year for skincare, but I’ve tried a lot of new things and found so many great products! I hope you’ve found something great among my list, and I’d love to know a few things from yours – do we agree on some items? Disagree? Do you have recommendations to try? Let us know! The more favorites the better! 😃 Until the final installment tomorrow, thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you then!!!
The Rest of the Best of 2017: