Have you turned your attention to beautifying your skin during the pandemic? I know I have, feeling in need of a little self-care, not least of all because mask-wearing can wreak havoc on the complexion. And perhaps, in these uncertain times, you’re watching your pennies. As with Part One of my article on drugstore makeup deals, I’ve consulted with 14-year veteran and Cosmetics Manager at CVS, Klaudia Granados, on good quality skin care products that are easy on the wallet. Below are her and my favorite discoveries.
Moisturizer and Sunscreen
La Roche Posay is the best skin care line in drugstores, in Klaudia’s opinion. It targets many different skin types and conditions. For sensitive skin, there’s Toleriane, for example. The comprehensive line, which even includes a waterproof mascara, is formulated without potentially irritating ingredients like fragrances and parabens. What the products do contain is La Roche Posay’s mineral-rich thermal spring water, also available in a soothing face mist, which hydrates and calms redness. “It helps a lot with bad sunburns,” reveals Klaudia.
France lays claim to another high-selling drugstore skin care line, Vichy, particularly its Mineral 89 hyaluronic acid moisturizer. With only 11 ingredients, including the mineral-packed Vichy volcanic water, it can be used as a hydrating booster or as a moisturizer. It works as a lightweight, easily absorbed moisturizer on my combination skin. For me, layering Anthelios sunscreen on top of Mineral 89 works well.
On this side of the pond, Neutrogena has a well-received line called Hydro Boost, also with hyaluronic acid. Naturally found in skin, but depleted over time, hyaluronic acid acts as a humectant, attracting moisture and locking it in. People with oily skin tend to like the line which includes a gel, a cream and a serum, as it doesn’t clog pores and absorbs quickly.
Neutrogena also makes face wipes which “fly out the door even during the pandemic,” says Klaudia. Now, there are different schools of thought on face wipes. There are those (like Caroline Hirons) who stay far away from them, like me, because of their negative environmental impact (millions are flushed down toilets, blocking up sewers, lining beaches and filling up the oceans) and because they can be harsh on the skin.
But, as noted above, face wipes have many fans, like New York City dermatologist, Diane Madfes, who considers the mild exfoliation they provide a “wonderful way to take off makeup and sunscreen.” Plus, wipe technology has improved, reveals Dr. Madfes, favoring wipes that contain micellar water, like the ones from Garnier, for example, and noting that there are compostable, biodegradables options on the market now.
It’s worth noting that Garnier makes a best-selling make-up removing micellar water. Micelles are groupings of surfactant molecules which gently lift makeup and impurities from the skin, acting like a magnet that attracts dirt. No rinsing necessary. It is available in a regular formula and one containing oil to remove waterproof makeup. “People rave about it,” says Klaudia.
But hands down, one of my favorite cleansers is a homemade concoction devised by in-demand, London-based facialist, Alexandra Soveral, which she lays out in her book, Perfect Skin: add one drop of lemon essential oil to one teaspoon of skin-brightening sweet almond oil and deeply massage into dry skin. After I wipe it all off with a warm washcloth, my face feels clean and soft. The added benefit of the daily use of this cost effective, environmentally friendly, chemical-free solution is the reduction of blackheads and minimization of pores.
If you like the idea of a completely natural oil cleanser, but are not into DIY, then the Facial Cleansing Oil from Burt’s Bees is the one for you. Formulated with coconut and argan oil, it moisturizes the skin without leaving a residue. “Even if you’re super oily,” says Klaudia, “it helps balance the skin, prohibiting excess oil production.”
I am not a fan of toner, finding that it dries my skin and is superfluous to a good cleanse. Having said that, there are gentle toners out there like Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel which has enjoyed enduring appeal. “It has been around forever,” says Klaudia. Not only that, but “one of my friends suffers from hormonal acne and the one thing she swears by is the witch hazel. It helps keep her acne at bay.”
Eye Cream and Retinol
The award-winning RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream ROC eye cream is a best seller, effective due to retinol’s exfoliating, wrinkle-reducing properties. It is also gentle enough to be used twice a day. It’s the eye cream I use most often and I have noticed an improvement with fine lines.
Beauty tip: to maximize absorption, it’s best to use eye cream after cleansing and before layering on serum or other products.
While you get a lot of bang for your buck with RoC, which originated in France, Neutrogena is no slouch when it comes to the retinol market either. Its Rapid Wrinkle Repair formula, particularly the serum, sells very well, says Klaudia, noting its gentle price point.
If you’re looking for something stronger — a prescription level retinoid, as opposed to OTC retinol — there’s adapalene. It is a retinoid acne treatment that was previously prescription only. It is sold in gel form as Differin. More and more customers are coming in with a note from their dermatologist, requesting this product, reveals Klaudia. But Differin is not the only game in town. La Roche Posay also sells adapalene via its Effaclar gel. Both brands have the same 0.1% concentration. In addition to wrinkle reduction, the benefits of using the Vitamin A derivative are many, including the clearing up and prevention of blackheads, whiteheads, acne blemishes and discoloration. This is why dermatologists consider it part of an indispensable one-two punch in skin care regimens.
The other part is Vitamin C. That’s because of its skin brightening and protective qualities, shielding skin from visible environmental stressors including free radical damage. And here, Vichy’s LiftActive peptide-infused Vitamin C ampoules have proven to be a hit, according to Klaudia. That’s down to the high concentration of Vitamin C (10%) plus collagen-boosting peptides delivered in precise fresh doses in sterile amber glass. Each ampoule is good for two applications.
Long sold at Wholefoods and more recently, in drugstores, Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay may just be the most overall effective mask on the market. The all-natural product, made of 100% natural calcium bentonite clay from Death Valley, is used for many kinds of treatments including facials, body wraps, clay baths and foot soaks. You mix the clay with water or apple cider vinegar to make a paste. The highly absorbent mixture works by drawing out toxins and tightening pores. But dermatologists caution that it should be used sparingly — once a month at most — particularly if you’re already using exfoliating acids and retinol as it can be too drying, thus spurring your body into overproducing sebum to make up for the discrepancy.
The drying tendency of the Aztec Secret Healing Clay is a plus, though, when it comes to underarms.
Fun fact: the clay can be used as a natural deodorant, to control sweat, reveals Klaudia. And speaking of natural, aluminum free deodorants, for the Miami resident, there is none better than Ivory’s Gentle Aluminum Free Deodorant Hint of Aloe. “I have tried everything from low end to high end and this one works the best,” declares the Cosmetics Manager.
If you’re no stranger to lash extensions, but the pandemic has put a damper on your lash-lengthening ritual, try the well-reviewed RapidLash serum, another popular drugstore product. For half the price of Latisse (which requires a prescription), daily use of RapidLash, assures Klaudia, will result in thicker, longer lashes in only 2 -3 weeks. For amplified results, use it in conjunction with castor oil.
I don’t believe in spending a lot of money on a body lotion and for years, I have used Eucerin, particularly the Eczema Relief Body Cream. I don’t have eczema, but this is the only lotion that quells the itchy dryness on my shins after I shave my legs. Made with colloidal oatmeal, it is free of steroids and its rich texture absorbs quickly. I’ve found it works well on sunburned skin too. Klaudia is a fan of Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Body Gel Cream. This lightweight cream contains hyaluronic acid which boosts skin cells’ hydration and locks it in.
Consistently well-rated and high-selling is Aveeno’s Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Oat for Dry Skin, which also contains skin-soothing colloidal oatmeal. But, let’s face it, no matter how you slice it, all of these lotions contain chemicals — many of them. My favorite all-natural body lotion is coconut oil — preferably one that is organic and comes in a glass jar like the one from Nutiva which I buy at Wholefoods. The downside is that it is greasy, so it’s not ideal if you’re going to wear say, silk or fitted jeans right after putting it on. But, because of its lack of chemicals and because it is also very moisturizing, I use coconut oil as often as I can. Sometimes, I give myself a little massage with a gua sha tool to improve circulation and keep cellulite at bay.
What’s gua sha, you ask? Gua sha is a scraping technique which comes from Chinese medicine. But gua sha is not about exfoliation. It’s more akin to a facial massage whereby, after the application of a face oil, curved tools made from semiprecious stone like jade or quartz are pressed against the face and swept upwards. The purported benefits are many from reduced inflammation, to increased circulation and lymphatic drainage. The technique is not limited to just the face and neck, but can be done on the whole body. There are numerous instructional videos online. I notice an immediate slimming and lifting of my face after a five-minute routine.
Granted, the lift is not long lasting, but doing this on a regular basis is supposed to boost collagen production. This bit of self-pampering also just feels really good. An added benefit during pandemic times is that you can use these nonporous tools to apply serums and lotions without touching your face. You do not need to spend a lot on gua sha tools. I purchased the set below from Amazon for $23, opting for jade as that is what Chinese tradition dictates. It will be a long time before I feel comfortable going to get a professional facial or a massage. Gua sha will have to do in the meantime. But it is a practice I will continue long after the pandemic ends.
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