Some Recent (Rare) Product Empties & Why I Love Them

I’ve mentioned previously that I have ADHD, and I often attribute my tendency to lose interest in cosmetics to my general attention deficits. But the truth is, like most women in this culture, exposed to near constant beauty ads and media images, I’m just constantly on the look-out for the next best thing, for that magic bullet that will make my skin perfect and that will finally disguise all my perceived imperfections. I’m a marketer’s dream because I bite on all the product hook lines and chase after every sales pitch. As a result, I generally never get around to finishing the cosmetic products I purchase. Product empties are a rarity for me. So, when I found myself preparing to dispose of 5 empty bottles and 1 completely spent sponge, I felt a post was in order to describe these fantastic products and what makes them special to me.

1. Paula’s Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum: Retails for $36 for 1 oz. from Paula’s or Dermstore (plus 10% savings if this item is listed among your Dermstore “favorites” list). I adore this serum. It’s possibly my favorite antioxidant serum of all time! Plus it doesn’t contain any retinoids so I used it throughout my pregnancy and while breastfeeding, so I’m (admittedly) somewhat sentimental about this product. But even without sentimentality, this is an elegantly formulated serum that’s well-suited to all skin types and covers all your antioxidant needs. Among other ingredients it contains peptides, ceramides, and Ubiquinone (nearly identical to the star ingredient in the über expensive Prevage MD product line which features idebenone, a synthetic form of ubiquinone), along with nourishing soybean and palm oils, turmeric, bearberry and mushroom extracts. But what really excites me is the combination of multiple forms of stabilized Vitamins C and E in combination with ferulic acid. That’s nearly identical to the ingredients of the ridiculously expensive Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum ($163/oz.) from Dermstore and when purchased at physicians’ offices. But the Paula’s Choice serum is more user-friendly because it’s in an air-tight tube (not dropper-style). And of course, the Paula’s Choice serum is less than 1/4 the price. That adds up to a pretty wise beauty buy in my book!

2. Kenra Professional Clarifying Shampoo Chelating Formula: I am so in love with this shampoo, and it’s so under-rated. I’m like on a crusade to get this product its due respect! It retails for $13 for 10.1 oz. from ULTA or $32 for 33.8 oz. from Amazon. You can also purchase it in some salons (including occasionally at the “salons” inside select Wal-Mart superstores) at varying prices and sizes. I love this shampoo because it is hands-down the best clarifying product I’ve ever found. It removes styling product build-up better than anything I’ve ever tried and does so quickly, requiring only wash and very little scrubbing. Okay, so it’s not a gentle sulfate-free co-washing type product (it’s called chelating for a reason). And I have color-treated, very fine, fragile hair, so I only use it about once a month. But it’s so effective that’s really all I need to use it. Afterwards, my hair is shinier and has more volume, because it’s not weighed down by all that excess build-up. Bonus, this shampoo is hands-down the best makeup brush and sponge cleaner I’ve ever found! The larger size/price comes in at just under a $1/ounce – an absolute steal when you consider that the “value sized” 10 oz. BEAUTYBLENDER liquid blender cleanser® retails for $30 ($3/oz.). This product is the ultimate multi-tasker and a beauty bargain to boot. I simply cannot recommend this shampoo highly enough.

3. Timeless Skincare The Original Hyaluronic Acid 100% Pure: Retails for $13.16 for 2 oz. from Hyaluronic Acid is a big buzz ingredient these days in skincare. But it’s been around for a while (it’s most commonly used as an injectable filler). It doesn’t have the same (longer lasting) effects when applied topically, but has a nice skin-plumping effect and is a great addition to your existing anti-aging skincare routine. Turns out it’s pretty difficult to get HA in a stabilized form for topical application, so it’s usually pretty expensive. For example, I’ve also ordered and enjoy using Paula’s Choice brand Hyaluronic Acid Booster (seen here) which retails for $45 for 0.67 oz. Now admittedly, the PC’s HA product has a few more bells and whistles (several ceramides, adenosine and panthenol). But since I’m already using some pretty outstanding serums and lotions, I don’t mind saving a little money when it comes to my HA booster. And this one is a steal at only $6.58/ounce! It mixes in with nearly other treatment, lotion and potion I use and is especially great patted on top of foundations or powders, making the cakiest of applications look smooth and lovely. It’s a wonderful perk-me-up that never disrupts the pre-existing application. I like to pat it onto my eye area when I’m looking more wrinkly or tired than usual, which seems to be more often these days (i.e. since becoming a mom) and probably accounts for the recently emptied bottle.

4. Obagi Nu-derm Exfoderm Blender: Price varies, available only from physicians’ offices. In general, retails for around $100 for 2 oz. Read more about this product at  I was first introduced to Exfoderm Blender by the same Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner who, not coincidentally, also introduced me to one of my favorite products ever, Revision Intellishade, about which I’ve already written at length here, so I’ll spare you further rhapsodizing about it here. Suffice it to say, I trust this brilliant woman’s opinion. She never steered me wrong and the Exfoderm Blender is yet another example. Blender contains 4% Hydroquinone, probably the most-researched, most scientifically-supported skin-lightening ingredient. It’s important to understand how hydroquinone works because some people mistakenly think that it “bleaches” the skin which is untrue. Hydroquinone actually works by preventing melanin (skin pigment) production. It’s effective when used as part of a comprehensive skincare regimen that absolutely must include broad-spectrum sunscreen. For more on broad-spectrum SPF, check out this article. And if you’re interested in reading more about hydroquinone, are considering using yourself and just fancy a bit of fascinating cosmetic chemistry reading, check out this summary from Beautypedia. But back to why I love this product: I’m ashamed to admit I was very unwise about sun protection when I was younger. I even frequented tanning salons in my teens and 20s. Horrifying, I know! I had a couple sun spots on my cheeks in my early 30s, and this stuff knocked ’em out in less than 6 weeks. With consistent sunscreen application, those pesky sun/age spots on my cheeks have never returned (thank goodness). But unlike PC’s RESIST Super serum, I wasn’t able to use this product during my pregnancy or while breastfeeding. And despite my best efforts and lots of sunscreen, like many women, I developed some sun sports and hyper pigmentation (this time on my neck and chest) during my pregnancy. So I was super excited to resume using Exfoderm Blender as soon as my daughter was weened. Now that I’ve finished this bottle, I hope to purchase another one as soon as our budget allows for it. It ain’t cheap, but it’s really effective!

5. M2 Skincare High Potency Skin Refinish Retails $49.98 for 1.7 oz. at Dermstore. I was first introduced to this product a few years back when I received a deluxe sample along with an order I purchased from Dermstore. After testing that sample just once, I immediately ordered the full-sized product. Since then (about 4 years ago now), I’ve yet to experience any other exfoliant that even comes close to performing as well. Skin Refinish is great because it combines mandelic and malic acid exfoliants, which are gentler forms of glycolic acids at a pH that actually works. Along with the acids, M2 includes the ever-popular antioxidant ubiquinone (noticing a trend here?), some other antioxidants (like algae extract), hyaluronic acid and some aloe leaf extract for soothing. The packaging M2 selected is especially thoughtful. Hubs calls it “space-aged.” The bottle is frosted to avoid any light or sun damage to the ingredients (antioxidants readily breakdown and are rendered useless in the presence of light and air. N.B. that’s why expensive jars of cream claiming to provide tons of antioxidant ingredients are such a ripoff – because the prized ingredients will be rendered ineffective in a matter of days after opening). You have to twist the nozzle on the  Skin Refinish bottle before the pump appears allowing you to dispense the product. Then you twist the top again, and the pump dispenser disappears back into the bottle. Pretty cool! And most importantly, it preserves the integrity of the precious ingredients inside. I use this product once per week, every Saturday night, and I immediately notice a difference in my skin. Then the next morning I wake up with brighter, tighter, glowing, more youthful skin. I love it! The most impactful exfoliant ever! Far superior to any grainy scrub. I already have my next bottle ready and waiting, so tossing this one was not too painful.

6. Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge: Retails for $6.99/each at ULTA or $10.99 for 2 sponges (also at ULTA). Incidentally, ULTA usually offers a buy one, get one 50% deal on these little guys. So, doing the math, that would be 4 sponges for $16.49 (plus tax obviously), or a little over $4.12/sponge. Not bad when compared to that famous pink sponge that costs $20 per! I know, I know. The two are not perfectly comparable. And this may be sacrilegious to some, but for day-to-day makeup application, I actually prefer the RT version! Feel free to hit me with angry comments. I promise to respond to each one 🙂 But I dislike the idea of using a $20 for everyday applications. Sure I like the almighty BeautyBlender too. They’re great.  But I tend to save my super-snazzy, jewel-like pink egg sponges for those occasions when I’m getting all dolled up for something special. For one thing, most of the time, I’m not applying a full face of foundation. Most days I’m sticking to simple Tinted Moisturizer and for that, I prefer the flat side of the RT sponge to smaller rounded BB. For another thing, I like the softer texture of the RT for day-to-day application. The RT tends to lay down lighter coverage, which again, is more appropriate for daytime, informal usage. And finally, I use RT sponges most of the time because I’m really rough on my sponges. I routinely use the same sponge for tinted moisturizer or BB cream; to dab on a little cream foundation over said BB cream (just where I need a little more coverage, you understand); to dip into cream concealer or to dot on some color corrector; to smudge out bronzer or blush; and to smooth out my high SPF powder foundation. I even use the pointy tip to go over the (often) messy areas of my eyeshadow. At the end of the day, there’s a whole lot of color product built up on my sponges. I try to be consistent about cleaning my sponges, but I do have a baby and a husband after all. So if I have dispose of my sponges more frequently that say, every 3 months, I’d prefer not to suffer massive pangs of financial remorse every time I toss one. I feel better by saving a little cash and using the RTs most of the time, especially since the performance is really good!

Beauty Resource Video of the Day:
Check out this informative video from Makeup Geek as she shares the top reasons why we (all at one time or another) have experienced this unpleasant phenomenon, and more importantly how to avoid it!

Wisdom for the Day:
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
~Proverbs 22:29 (English Standard Version)
Read more here.

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