Remember when Siobhan lamented that we hadn’t covered the ARCONA line yet? And how, as clean-beauty bloggers, we need to jump on that train? Well, here it is: the first in a series of reviews about the products I’m now going to refer to as amaze-balls.
I was introduced to the line by a fellow beauty blogger when I was looking for an anti-aging serum for my highly reactive, acne-prone skin. I’d tried other night serums that promised to refresh and renew, but most of the time, I woke up with a red, itchy face or a blemish the size of small island in some weird place (eyelid, anyone?).
Upon her rec, I ordered ARCONA’s Gentle Solution, the sensitive skin version of its nighttime treatment. I was in love with the product’s packaging immediately – the silver bottle looks pretty classy in my medicine cabinet. But to really put it to the test, I had to actually put it on my face.
After one night, I was hooked. Three small blemishes I’d seen forming on my forehead the night before had completely disappeared the morning after my first Gentle Solution application. It hydrated my skin with no need for additional moisturizer. I looked fresh-faced even though it was one of those mornings when my body would’ve thanked me for a few more ZZZZZs.
Over time, my love hasn’t waned. It’s the one and only product I’ve ever used that I don’t think I’ll ever turn my back on because I can see it work every other day (you’re only supposed to use it every other night to give your skin a break – I also like that philosophy). It smells like a candied berry, soaks in quickly and honestly leaves my skin better looking than any other product I’ve tried. And, you know how some anti-aging serums/creams (especially dirty ones, mind you) bleach your towels if you accidentally wipe any excess product on them? Not this baby. I think my towels might be softer after meeting the Gentle Solution.
Other home runs from ARCONA:
- Booster Defense Serum: After trying for months to calm my skin and repair some damage from acne scars, adding this morning skin booster changed my skin’s texture and helped prevent breakouts.
- Cranberry Firming Gel: A really lovely, lightweight but incredibly moisturizing day and nighttime gel. It’s like a tall drink of water for my skin, especially in the winter. Bonus: Lemon and cranberry extracts help clear up breakouts.
- Raspberry Clarifying Bar: I never, ever, never, ever thought I’d buy a bar of cleanser with which to wash my face. But this one, man, this one is amazing. Smells lovely, is really concentrated so it takes off makeup like a pro AND it uses fruit enzymes to unclog skin and reduce inflammation and redness. Score.
Are there any other ARCONA products we should know about or try? Anyone else having the same love affair with the line that we are?
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely young woman named Jessica, who told me that after a move across the country, a bout of bad skin, and a run-in with No More Dirty Looks, she’d decided to transition completely to clean beauty products.
Naturally, I invited her to share her thoughts with the rest of the class, mainly because it can be hard for some of us to remember what it’s like when you first discover that the products you’ve long trusted actually totally suck. Do you throw our book against the wall and decide it’s all BS? Do you ransack your entire bathroom at once? We’ve long recommended that people go slow, first replacing products they use daily and over a large area of their body (shampoo, soap, sunscreen, body lotion). Next, we often recommend what we like to call “gateway” brands: Naturals that are good enough, if not perfectly clean. These are usually easier to find, more affordable, and they smell and perform more like conventional products—which is great for not scaring people off. Finally, that perfect red you wear on nights out should be the last to go, if it goes at all (we still have ours!). Jessica seems to get all this! Which is great.
She’s is employing a one-in/one-out system, buying new products as she runs out of the old, and so far, she’s loving the results. Her skin has transformed, she’s gone rogue with some DIY recipes, and she’s loving every minute of it.
Here, her story:
Hometown: New York, NY
Current weather: Swings from grey and cold to sunny and cool: 30s-60s, high humidity.
Hair: Thick, shiny black strands that naturally fall in piece-y, poufy waves
Skin: Olive-toned combination skin—normal skin with an oily and pimple-prone T-zone
I fantasize about being a clean beauty queen but for now, I’m the new girl. I recently divorced from mega-ultra-plumping synthetic-fiber mascara and I’m freshly freed from a decade-long salicylic acid bender. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t trying to poison myself. I’ve never dyed my hair, I cook my own meals to avoid eating weird junk out, and—don’t tell—I use antiperspirant sparingly when temperatures allow. But despite my good intentions, I was still drowning myself in toxins.
My facial routine was especially heinous: for the past 10 years, I’d been stripping my face night and day with harsh cleansers and a thick layer of salicylic acid, then smothering it with thick, greasy moisturizers to stem peeling.
My wake-up call wasn’t pretty, but it did the trick: Within days of my mid-winter move from central Texas to the Big Apple, I found myself sporting a face full of flaky skin. By a stroke of luck, I discovered No More Dirty Looks around the same time, and knew I’d found the solution I needed—badly. Resisting the compulsion to purge my medicine cabinet, I triaged, tackling my dysfunctional skin regimen first. I sprang for Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Spot Treatment, which contains a low concentration of natural salicylic acid extracted from willow bark. I also bought a bar of Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Soap to replace my body and facial cleansers, switched to a Eucerin daily lotion with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for cleaner sun protection, and snagged a bottle of extra virgin olive oil from the kitchen for a pure nightly moisturizer. I braced myself for the worst, worried I’d wake to a constellation of new zits. Instead of looking revolting, however, my skin glowed in response: Smooth and blemish-free.
I have a new addiction now—natural beauty. I’ve committed to replace any product I run out of (or accidentally drop in the trash) with a clean alternative. So far, I’ve treated my lashes to Josie Maran’s GOGO Instant Natural Volume Argan Mascara and taken to eos lip balm, which is free of parabens and petrolatum. Now, I’m on the hunt for a good replacement for undereye concealer—a challenge, since I try to keep my beauty purchases under $30. My hair products are next on the chopping block, and I can’t wait to see the results. Clean beauty veterans—let me know which shampoos and hair products you’re loving!
So let’s help a girl out. What affordable undereye concealer are you loving? And hair—what do you think she should start with?
About a year ago, Alexandra raved about Stark Skincare, and when a deal came up last summer, I could not resist. My son and I have been using Stark consistently ever since, and loving it! We are especially fond of the CYPRESS purity + defense oil, and he uses the toner regularly too. I’m particularly impressed with the flexibility of the line—if both I and my adolescent son can use the products, that’s pretty impressive. Plus, it’s gender neutral in terms of packaging and scents. Oh, the scents. Jessica Lafleur, its founder, really knows how to put together some unique combinations, and make all the products compliment each other.
I’ve tried all things Stark, and each product is quite special; they all pop up somewhere in my rotation. So when Jessica asked if I’d like to try a new addition to her line I was all, “Duh. Yeah!” Here’s the review…
MEADOWFOAM the everybody oil: Until very recently, I wasn’t that into body oils. Since I’ve been dry brushing, I have less need for that sort of product. But I do enjoy a nice oil after a soak in a sea salt bath, so I have been trying a few brands and some DIY. As soon as I tried this one from Stark, it immediately went to the top of my list. I love it on my legs after a bath or shower, rubbed on my belly when I’m feeling crampy, and just a little bit smoothed in my hair. It’s more substantial than some other body oils, so if you have need of serious moisture this is a great one to try—and yet, it sinks right in and leaves my skin incredibly soft with not even the slightest bit of greasiness. Really!
I had never heard of meadowfoam seed oil but it seems a great addition to skin and hair care (here’s what Mountain Rose Herbs has to say about it). The formula also includes some of my favorite skin care ingredients: sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.
So let’s talk about the scent. I often like unscented products because I’m incredibly picky and sensitive, so when I do choose to use a scent it has to be spectacular. Check! It’s quite complex and subtle, with the citrus popping first, then a hint of lavender, and as I rub it in I can catch the chocolate. Later, after it sits on my skin a while, coconut. I really like that the scent is right there for me while I rub the oil in, but then fades so as not to compete with any other fragrances I use that day. The only thing I’m not 100% in love with is the press/flip top. I find those a bit messy, so I’m on the lookout for a pump top that will fit the bottle.
I love the oil so much I purchased another bottle so I’ll be ready when skirt season hits. Come on, spring! What do you love about Stark?
In these parts we’ve long known that natural oils feed the skin—and they’ve even helped some of us with our breakouts, right? But a new group of natural oils have focused in on blemishes by including acne-fighting actives in the mix now too. Well+Good has reviewed some of their faves below. Has oil helped your acne?
It might sound contradictory (and maybe downright scary!), but one of the best things you can do for a bout of blemishes is to slick your skin with oils. Not with pore-clogging mineral oils, but with plant-based ones that can help balance and calm your adult skin.
“Treating oil with oil balances skin,” says Vered Back, an herbalist, facialist, and beauty-product formulator. “Drying it out with harsh ingredients just engages it in a battle.”
Back, who’s the founder of Vered Organic Botanicals, says her top seller is an acne treatment oil blend. “There are so many people with problem skin, and nobody really dared to think about making an oil for them.” But now, they are. Here are six oil blends for acne-prone skin we love…
1. Vered Therapeutic Balancing Face Oil
This handcrafted line is all about the love of oils. They’re handmade by organic-obsessed master herbologist and facialist, Vered Beck, who uses anti-inflammatory and anti-viral herbs (including rare ones like niaouli, chickweed, and speedwell) that vary with the available crops and promote deep healing.
2. Marie Veronique Organics Treatment Oil
This is a perfectly balanced acne-fighting cocktail. Argan oil controls surface sebum, borage oil fights inflammation (thanks to its gamma-linolenic acid), and tea tree oil helps banish acne-causing bacteria. Use it alone or as part of the company’s Acne Relief Kit for even clearer skin.
3. Susan Ciminelli Oil Control Formula
This word-of-mouth wonder helps clear pimples and blackheads. It contains thyme, which you want because it was found to be more effective against acne than benzoyl peroxide (the controversial main ingredient in Proactiv). And a trio of anti-bacterial extracts—lemongrass, lavender, and cajeput bark—gives it a sinus-clearing scent. This simple blend of oils is actually super active, so it’s probably not a fit for super sensitive, inflamed skin.
4. In Fiore Pur Face Oil Concentré
Sometimes the best solution comes from old-world practices. Like this apothecary-style blend of wild-crafted oils. It’s a beautiful skin-balancer powered by neroli, nature’s stress-buster. On breakout-prone skin it brings down redness, eases congestion, and slows the pimple-making process to a halt. And a dash of rosehip-seed oil helps give skin back it’s healthy, even glow.
Every once and a while, I fall in love with a new line. This happens infrequently, because I’m very particular about what I’ll put on my face. But of the four things I have tried, I absolutely adore all of them. One in particular.
The line is Called Marie Veronique Organics, and I’ll admit that the little French school girl in me fell for the name.*
Once I tried the products, though, I fell for what was inside, too. They have a new line out called Pacific that I am getting ready to try. Stay tuned for that. But for now, here’s what I’m loving:
Anti-Aging Mist This one’s wild. It has turmeric on the ingredient list, and you can smell it when you spray it on your face and chest. I could see this not being everyone’s favorite scent, but I find it delightful. Surprising, unisex, invigorating. I love how it feels on my skin—not drying, like some mists, and not overly floral. I love a floral mist myself, but I know plenty of women (and no doubt countless men) who do not. Plus, it contains potent antiagers like elderberry and licorice root.
Cleanser I love this stuff. I’m still devoted to my Kahina cleanser in alternation with my Tata Harper, but lo! There’s a third favorite in town. This cleanser is incredibly gentle but effective. When I cheat and go Dior on my lashes, it doesn’t do the trick, but neither would, say, Neutrogena, if that was my bag (it’s not). So I forgive it, and any natural cleanser, for not being able to get conventional mascara off my eyes, but I give it a whole lot more: Sunscreen, makeup and crap from this dirty city I live in: Gone. Natural oils: Intact. Skin? Balanced! I love it. There’s a little geranium and vetiver in there, too, which smells divine.
Anti-Aging Oil There is so much going on in this face oil that it’s tough to know where to start, so I’m going to be brief for once: The first time I used this, I woke up glowing. During a northeast (admittedly mild) winter in a building as old as mine, where it’s hard to control the heat, dry skin is a problem. This puppy seems to have done the trick.
Everyday Sheer Coverage SPF 20 I am obsessed (obsessed!) with this product. Funny story: I thought it was just a sunscreen, and I’m already obsessed with another sunscreen, so it took me a while before I tried it. Then I mentioned the line in my morning routine, and one of you mentioned the tinted SPF. “Tinted?!” I thought. I have to get my hands on some of that. Then I realized I already had it in my bathroom. (Champagne problems, I know.) So the following morning, I put a quarter size dollop in my palms and spread it over my face on top of my go-to sunscreen. I’m a safety girl,** and there’s no such thing as too much SPF for me. I looked in the mirror and…whoa. The coverage is so sheer that I couldn’t spot so much as a streak of makeup, and yet my whole face looked somehow better. And more even. And more hydrated. I’ve not gone a day without it since, nor do I plan to. Huge fan.
Have you tried this delightful line? Any questions about the products I mentioned?
*We’re Quebecois, remember? We had to go to French/French-immersion school growing up.
** My undying love to anyone who gets the movie reference here without googling.