Confession: When I was a sophomore in high school, I spent an entire day working in the summer sun at a dance team car wash fundraiser sans sunscreen on my décolletage—and I’ve spent the years since then regretting it.
My skin blistered and flaked (kids! Sunblock is your friend!) and peeled and made me wish topical painkillers were more like medicinal marijuana in their effectiveness. When it finally, finally healed, I was left with sunspots and skin that looks older than my real mid-20s age.
Flash forward to this spring when, in addition to my semi-wrinkly-ness, I started getting regular breakouts on my chest. Now, while these weren’t cystic-acne like, they were clusters of little (very painful) whiteheads that nothing could curb. I mean, these guys responded to nothing and no one. I tried not to squeeze, but the whiteheads were ruining my summer dress wearing ability, and encroaching on the swimsuit (and unmentionables) wearing I’d planned for my honeymoon!
So I picked. And I squeezed. And I poked and prodded. And, I was left with angry red marks that spread (reactive, thin skin, anyone?) like ripples in a pond. Gross.
I was annoyed and frustrated and giving up. Then I got a lovely little package from Osmia Organics at my doorstep. Inside was a kind note from the brand’s founder and a bottle of OO’s Facial Calibration Serum.
At first, I didn’t try it. I was scared. My face had just started to become balanced with my ARCONA regime and I didn’t want to introduce a new product in the few weeks before my wedding.
But I was itching to break open the yummy blend of oils (acai, rosemary, black seed, kukui, oh my!). So, I tried it on the acne that had become my nemesis: my decolletage. I followed the instructions dutifully, misting on a hydrosol and pressing the herbaceous-smelling serum into my still-damp chest each morning and night.
Lo and behold, after only a few weeks, a change occurred. My sun-crinkled skin began to look its age. My whiteheads stopped popping up (and when they did rear their heads, they disappeared in a day or two). My sunspots faded.
The Facial Calibration Serum is now a must-have in my morning and night skincare routine. I’ve been using it for more than two months and the results are better than I expected. Plus, adding it into my routine has become a calming ritual because I know I’m repairing my skin.
At $50 for .5 ounces, it may seem like a splurge. But I only use HALF A PUMP for my WHOLE decolletage. Add to that that the founder, Sara Villafranco is incredible, funny, sweet and sarcastic (plus, she posts the BEST photos on Instagram—follow her now, if you don’t already) and you know you’ve got the whole package. I’m hooked.
I’ve also heard amazing things about her spot treatment and her Detox Exfoliating Mask, so those may need to be next on my list! Have you tried any of the Osmia line?
Ingredients: caprylic/capric triglyceride (fractionated coconut oil), olive squalane, aleurites molaccana (kukui) oil, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) oil*, macadamia integrifolia (macadamia nut) oil*, rosa rubiginosa (rosehips) seed oil*, vitus vinifera (grapeseed) oil*, wildcrafted butyrospermum parkii (shea) oil, schisandra sphenanthera (schisandra fruit) CO2, euterpe oleracea (acai) oil, nigella sativa (black seed) oil*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) CO2 extract*, GMO-free vitamin E oil, and a proprietary blend of organic and wild-harvested essential oils
Juice Beauty has a new Stem Cellular Repair collection that has me super excited. They make some pretty big claims about results, like reduction of lines and wrinkles, and improved skin tone and luminosity. Yes, I’ll have some of those, please. I chose two of the products to try, and was so thrilled within a few days of use I could hardly believe it. I wanted to be really, really sure the remarkable change was not just random (my skin can be great one day and crummy the next, what with the perimenopause wackiness). I’ve been using the products for a couple of months now, which for me means about 2.5 hormonal cycles. This is key, because I wanted to know how adding these products to my routine would affect my hormonal break-outs. Well, the evidence is in—and, may I just say WOOOO HOOOO! These products are truly great, and I do believe I’m in this for the long haul. Here are the changes I’ve experienced:
- Reduction in wrinkles, especially those deeper ones between my brows and on my forehead
- More even tone, with both older damage and recent acne scars much improved*
- Improved texture, with smaller pores and increased firmness
- Fewer blackheads
- Fewer blemishes, less inflammation
- Accelerated healing of existing blemishes
- General fabulousness
Stem Cellular Repair Booster Serum: This is a thick, citrusy-smelling gel that goes on smoothly and kind of liquefies as it meets the warmth of skin. It gives me a little tingle, in a pleasant way. The first two times I used it I’d say it was more of a sting, which made me nervous because I tend to be sensitive. This is the first product that goes on my skin after cleansing, morning and night. It adds a little moisture, but I still use my other products (another serum, hydrosol, oil). The idea is that it boosts what your other products do, and with the overall results I’m getting I’d say it does its job. I love the the airless pump for keeping the serum stable, but the downside is you can’t tell how much product is left.
Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream: This is Juice Beauty’s answer to BB creams, which I admit I’d never heard of until I heard of CC. I’m all in favor of multitaskers, and I had always wanted to try a tinted moisturizer. This is that, and so much more. It has SPF 30 (zinc oxide), so it has become my face and neck sunscreen. The first time I tried it, I thought, “Wow, I wish my skin was in good enough shape to use such a light coverage product.” Then it occurred to me, maybe this would make my skin better—and it did. I now use much less of my mineral foundation to cover flaws, and mostly just for under my eyes. CC is a great base for mineral foundation spot application, takes care of evening my complexion, and leaves my skin with a velvety texture. I use a bit of finishing powder too, and that’s all I feel I need for a work day in front of a crowd. There hasn’t been any blazing sun yet where I am, but so far so good in the SPF department.
I have tried CC several times just on its own as a sunscreen during sweaty running and hiking, and it does the job. Of all the times I’ve done this, only twice I’ve had the tiniest bit of creasing around my eyes, and I put it on pretty thick to test it. I wouldn’t have even noticed the creasing if I hadn’t looked in my magnifying mirror. I’ve had absolutely no creasing during regular daily activities. Here’s the down side: It only comes in two shades. I use Natural Glow (for fair to medium skin). Warm Glow is for medium to dark skin tones. I’m thrilled the lighter shade works for my pale olive skin.
Alexandra** and Siobhan*** have both tried it and are just as pleased with the results. We all have different color undertones so that bodes well for versatility.
So is it the stem cells? Is it the vitamin C? Or just this particular combination of ingredients? Whatever. Thank you, Juice.
Are you intrigued?? Tell us!
*my DIY brightener is the bomb for sun damage, and works well on acne scars over time, but adding the Juice products definitely accelerates results
**Alexandra on the CC: “I love that this feels nothing like sunscreen and looks nothing like makeup. Yet it definitely evens out the skin tone and gives a bit of a dewy glow!”
***Siobhan on the CC: “I know I tend to get really excited about new things, but not often! I’m ga-ga about this product. I agree that it seems to not only wear well (light and not makeuppy or sunscreeny) but it also seems to be improving my skin. It’s become a desert-island must for me. I have the light one and it doesn’t add pigment to my fair skin, though it evens everything out nicely.”
The other day, I was reminded of something Alexandra and I discovered when we were writing the book: That basically every beauty biff under the sun could be ameliorated with a little aloe. As we started studying ingredient lists on our old products, we noticed that so many products we’d known and loved for years had aloe listed first on the ingredient list, which, remember, means there’s more of it in there than any other ingredient.
So if aloe was doing much of the heavy lifting (or taming, as the case may be) in so many of our products, couldn’t we use it on its own, too?
But of course. One of the great things about familiarizing yourself with ingredients—and not just finished products—is that you start to figure out what works well for you and why. If you’re buying aloe, some things to remember: Go organic; get 100% pure aloe; and make sure there are no green dyes or fragrance in there. You can get it at any health food store in gel form—which is the consistency of what comes out of the plant when you rip open a leaf, kind of like a slippery, thinner version of hair gel.
Now, without further ado: Here are the 10 (sort of) science-backed uses for aloe vera:
1. To tame frizz before drying or for air-drying. Pretty obvious one. Aloe is the primary ingredient in many conditioners and most defrizzers that aren’t silicone-based (which is most of them) because its consistency makes it easy to apply and coat the hair with. Plus, the pH is slightly acidic, but just slightly, which can help seal the cuticle of the hair, making it more likely to behave. This works amazingly well on my wavy thick hair for air drying, but I like it blown out, too. If you want to buy something instead of using pure aloe, I like this.
2. As a shaving gel for legs or face. We’ve told you many times that we do not use shaving cream, and if you’re still using the traditional stuff please stop immediately! We use whatever is lying around and is kind of silky feeling. Because aloe is also antiinflammatory, thanks to the enzymes, and hydrating, thanks to the very high water content, this stuff works like a charm on legs (or whevever) for a very close shave.
3. As a topical treatment for razor burn or makeout burn. If you’re like me, you’ve probably at some point thought dry shaving your legs with a not-especially-new razor was a great idea. It’s not, but if you end up with razor burn—or if you’ve been making out with someone scruffy who makes your face a little red—aloe is a godsend. Slather it on after you shower, then again before bed.
4. Instead of an oil-free moisturizer, especially if you’re acne-prone: Studies show that aloe can be an effective humectant, increasing water retention in the skin. It also contains antioxidants in the form of vitamins A, C and E, and enzymes that can help calm inflammation and irritation—which is probably why it’s in so many moisturizers for acne-prone skin. I think it just feels nice, especially in the summer. Keep it in the fridge during heatwaves for an amazing way to wake up your skin, post shower.
5. As a personal lubricant: TMI Alert! My favorite lube is from Aloecadabra, and it’s aloe-based. I don’t care for the flavored ones so much, but the plain aloe lubricant has been my go-to for some time. I’ve also given bottles of it to two of my friends! Plus, it’s condom-safe and pH balanced, which is important for girls.
6. On dry hair or your eyebrows. If you’re lucky enough to have brows like Alexandra, maybe you want to use a little on them with some powder to darken or define them, and keep strays in place. This works on blondes too, with powdered eye shadow in a taupe or very, very light brown. It can similarly be used on dry hair as a way to prevent flyaways, if those bother you.
7. On seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis. Ugh. If you have or have ever suffered from either of these you know how bad it can get. I have not personally, but I’ve seen friends suffer through both, and boy does it suck. Enter: your favorite succulent. The data is limited, but studies have shown it to be effective in the treatment of both.
8. To help infections heal. There’s some evidence that the antibacterial qualities that make it a great lotion for acne-prone skin may also help with wound healing in humans, and in rats. I have tried this (I’ve also done it with honey), and I think it works. Can’t be sure, but it can’t hurt.
9. On cooking burns. Hopefully you had a cool mom who taught you this when you were a kid (hi, mom!). If not, you can be that cool mom or dad now or later. Oh, except wait… Despite the fact it seems like it would be a good idea, NIH says it doesn’t work on sunburns. [Ed's Note: Alexandra used it on the backs of her legs, after she burned them during a surf lesson while on vacation. She's convinced the cooling aloe eased some of her pain.]
10. Make a face mask out of it. We know some of you out there love your DIY. For you, combine aloe with oats and your favorite face oil in whatever proportions feel nice to you and slap the stuff on your face. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and you’ll be left with a nice, slightly taught face (in a good way, weird as it sounds).
What’d I miss?
Image (cc) via Flickr user Erik Mallinson
Well, my boy has a bit of a problem, in any case, and I need your help finding him a good, um, boysturizer.
First, let me back up: Despite the fact that I do this for a living and can be a bit of a zealot (“Do you know what is in that?!”), this is something he has decided he wants to do (mostly) on his own. He’s switched his shampoo and conditioner, uses my Tom’s toothpaste, and is super supportive of what we’re up to over here. But after a couple of attempts to switch his face lotion to something a little less…Clean & Clear, we’re sort of stuck.
He likes his J&J moisturizer because it isn’t greasy, absorbs well and doesn’t leave any film on his skin. It also doesn’t smell like a girl, which is a bonus.
Now, I know most skincare lines are unisex, but if we’re being honest we all know that most of them smell like candy, fruit or flowers—and he doesn’t want anything like that. He also doesn’t want something that feels oily, which, hey, I get! It took me a long time to love the feeling of plant oils on my skin, and some people never get into it. Finally, it can’t feel filmy on his skin.
So far he’s tried Organic Apoteke Active Face Gel, which was too acidic and caused his face to turn red. The redness quickly faded, and with it a desire to ever try it again (which works well for me, frankly, since I only have half a bottle of it left and the company appears to be on hiatus!). Next, he tried Dr. Alkaitis’ Organic Day Cream, which is aloe-based but has shea butter high up on the list. This lotion feels lovely on my skin, but it was way too heavy for him, leaving him with that dreaded “coated” feeling. Also, it sort of smells like a natural version of the gum you get in baseball card packets when you’re a kid. To me this is a plus; to him, not so much.
So we turn to you:
Men, it’s time to stop lurking and share your skincare secrets. Women, tell us what your boyfriends, man friends and husbands are using. And if you’ve tried something yourself that you think fits the bill, weigh in. Let’s find him something that will make him as happy at that guy up top.
Please and thank you.
The use of oils-as-moisturizer is becoming increasingly popular—even the mainstream mags are getting behind the movement. We’d like to believe we played a small part in their promotion, though we acknowledge it’s taken on a life of its own.
And interestingly, a new Mintel report says that most people are really unhappy with whatever they’re using to moisturize their bodies. From HAPPI: “79% wish hand and body lotion lasted longer, while nearly half feel like they still have dry skin, even right after applying the lotion. In addition, 38% of users think hand lotions are too greasy and 37% often feel like lotions leave their skin feeling sticky.” (We wonder if they’re using mainstream moisturizers that don’t have particularly skin-friendly ingredients in them. Probably, since this was a nationwide survey, and as much as we’d love “most people” to use naturals, most people still do not.)
But with so many women making the switch to body oil, or at the very least adding oils to their routine, we want to know: What’s your preference? Oils or moisturizers?
In a recent post, Alexandra discussed her plans for fall skincare, citing that moisturizers can feel more hydrating. This is in part due to the oil-water combination—which you can also achieve using a toner or mist in conjunction with an oil—as well as the presence of heavier occlusives in certain formulations. We’ve also mentioned that we sometimes cleanse with oils. Sometimes that is moisturizing enough, while other times we include mists, more oils, and moisturizers. Hydration in the nation.
So what do you use—oil or moisturizer? And are you one of the 79% of people peeved at their moisturizer?