This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Pretty In My Pocket. The products featured were provided free of charge by Paula's Choice for review consideration.
I was beyond excited when Pretty In My Pocket presented me with the opportunity to test out a custom skincare routine from Paula's Choice
. Long-time readers of the blog will know that Paula's Choice is a brand that I trust when it comes to effective cruelty, fragrance and dye-free products suitable for sensitive skin and acne
, which I've been struggling with most of my life. Paula's Choice
also kindly offered me a personal email consultation with one of their skincare experts, but the great thing about their website is that this perk isn't just reserved for bloggers or VIPs - it's free and available for anyone who desires to find the best Paula's products to suit their skin's needs - just call 1-800-831-4088. Paula's Choice also offers 100% Money Back guarantee within 60 days if you're not completely satisfied with any of their products.
During my email exchange with Holly, their fabulous specialist, I was asked about my skin type
(normal, dry, oily, combination/dry or combination/oily) and skin concerns
(acne, dehydration, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, eczema etc.). I diagnosed myself as combination sensitive, and told Holly I've had problems with some acne spots and clogged pores as well as sun spots and post-acne hyperpigmentation. Taking my feedback into consideration, Holly chose for me the Hydralight Advanced Kit for Normal, Combination and Oily Sensitive Skin
($99 for 5 products), and added in another exfoliator to help with my pores, the RESIST Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA, as well as their C15 Super Booster to fight my hyperpigmentation. I promptly received all these products on October 20th (yes, exactly a month ago!), emptied my bathroom cabinet of all other skincare bits, and started following my custom routine as shown below. Here's are my thoughts:
1. Hydralight One Step Face Cleanser ($25 for 16 oz)
: The Hydralight Cleanser is a non-foaming gel geared towards sensitive as well as combination and oily skin types. The two main ingredients are moisturizing glycerin and sodium laureth sulfate, a cleansing agent, as well as repairing niacinamide, soothing allantoin and hydrating sodium hyaluronate. I used this cleanser by applying it onto a damp face, massaging it around in circular motions, and rinsing off or removing with a warm washcloth. Mind you, I did not use it to remove heavy make-up - I always use a separate cleansing oil for that - but I tried it on light make-up one day (just concealer and blush) and it got it off without any trouble. I found the gel texture the most similar to Dermalogica Ultracalming cleanser
, if you've ever tried that; but basically, it does feel a little bit like washing your face with just glycerin, which I quite like :)
According to Beautypedia, the second ingredient in this cleanser, sodium laureth
sulfate, is a gentle detergent that's suitable even for the most sensitive skins, while sodium lauryl
sulfate is the extra harsh, irritating ingtedient we should aim to avoid in our skincare (read more about sulfates on Beautypedia here
). I can't verify that - but in the past three years, I've taken to avoiding both ingredients, as well as any foaming face washes just to be on the safe side and try to protect my skin's acid mantle as much as I can. So I'm not entirely sure if I've now become allergic to sodium laureth sulfate or if it was something else in this cleanser, but unfortunately, during the three weeks I've used it day and night, my skin freaked out. It became dry, tight and red, and I developed a lot (and I mean a lot) of clogged pores on my forehead. In the last week of testing the Hydralight routine, I replaced the One Step Cleanser with the Andalou Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Cream, and I've now pretty much got the situation under control. So unfortunately, while I quite enjoyed the Paula's Choice Cleanser to begin with, it turned out not to work for my skin - but your experience may of course vary.
2. Hydralight Toner ($20 for 6.4 oz)
: The Hydralight Toner is a lightweight liquid meant to normalize combination skin and calm down redness. It contains a lot of botanical antioxidants like green tea extract and grape seed extract, as well as willow herb and allantoin to soothe and sodium hyaluronate and glycerin to hydrate. I've found it to be a very nice refreshing toner, and it became especially important in my routine after the misshap with the cleanser; it made my skin feel a lot more comfortable and soft right away. If I could change one thing about it though, I would repackage it into a spray bottle (well, I actually did that for my own use by decanting a little bit into a travel spray bottle); but that's my preference for all hydrating toners as I dislike rubbing my face with too many cotton pads. I do very much enjoy this toner and will continue to use it in my every day routine.
3. Hydralight Moisture-Infusing Lotion ($28 for 2 oz)
: The Hydralight Lotion is a light moisturizer meant to soothe sensitive and combination & oily skin, and it's suitable for use around the eyes. The ingredients include emollients such as caprylic/ capric triglycerine, squalane and glycerin, soothing oat kernel extract and a whole skew of antixodiants such as Vitamin E & C as well as superoxide dismutase. I'm always slightly skeptical when trying out new moisturizers as most of them leave me very greasy, but I was pleasantly surprised after using the Hydralight Lotion - it absorbs very quickly and leaves no shine behind, just plump, moisturized, happy skin. Even though I was advised to use this mostly at night, when my skin was feeling particularly dry I would sneak this into my morning routine as well, as I found the Lotion to be more moisturizing and soothing on my skin than the Mineral Complex; it almost has a cooling effect when you massage it into your skin. I give it two thumbs up!
4. Hydralight Shine-Free Daily Mineral Complex SPF 30 ($28 for 2 oz)
: The Hydralight Mineral Complex is a moisturizing mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide 6%, titanium dioxide 2.32 %) for the daytime, enriched with anti-irritants such as licorice root extract and allantoin. It's a white lotion with a siliconey texture that should be familiar to all physical sunscreen users; mind you, the Mineral Complex is thicker than Japanese/ Korean- inspired liquid sunscreens in shake-up bottles and more like your traditional 'Western' sunscreen. I was very impressed with the blendability of this sunscreen and the matte finish it left on the skin, which lasted through most of the day even on my very oily nose. I do find that it leaves a bit of a white cast especially when you first apply it, like most mineral sunscreens tend to do, but on my fair skin it wasn't very noticeable and didn't interfere with my make-up. Compared to the Paula's Choice RESIST sunscreen
I've been using this summer, I think the Hydralight Mineral Complex is marginally heavier in texture, but I'd say I like them both about the same, and find them very effective in terms of UV protection.
5. Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Lotion ($26 for 3.3 oz)
: My Paula's Choice consultant advised me to use the BHA Lotion in the mornings, or alternating it with the RESIST 5% AHA, discussed below. In the past, I've tried both the BHA Gel and the BHA Liquid in the 2% strength
. The 1% BHA Lotion is aimed at more sensitive skin, hence its inclusion in the Hydralight Kit, and claims to unclog pores and mild bumps for normal and slightly dry skin types. I was a bit hesitant to try it as my skin certainly isn't dry, but I found the Lotion to be very lightweight and fast absorbing - on me, it's actually significantly lighter in feel than the viscous BHA Liquid. The Lotion helps to keep my pores clear and even out my skintone, but at the moment, I need to pair it with a slightly heavier moisturizer to help with seasonal dryness.
6. RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA ($32 for 1.7 oz)
: Compared to the 1% BHA Lotion, the RESIST AHA Treatment is a significantly higher price point, but that's because it contains more anti-aging ingredients such as peptides, curcuminoids (antixoidants derived from turmeric) and ceramides. It's recommended for dry skin types, and I did find it to be more comfortable and nourishing on my skin than the 1% BHA Lotion. The Daily Smoothing Treatment is a pale yellow lotion with a silky texture that absorbs nicely into the skin. On the days I had more irritation/ active spots on my forehead, I experienced a little bit of stinging upon application, but that would go away quickly and I haven't noticed any extra redness in my skin because of that. In terms of effectiveness on my face, I think the AHA Treatment and the BHA Lotion were pretty close, but I do marginally prefer the Treatment for now - I'd have to test them both more extensively for a longer period of time to really compare the results though. All in all, I'm quite impressed with the unclogging, brightening and plumping effects of the Daily Smoothing Treatment, and I will continue to reach for it in my everyday routine.
7. RESIST C15 Super Booster ($48 for 0.67 oz)
: All of the Paula's Choice RESIST Super Boosters are packaged in little glass bottles with a dropper and are meant to be used as add-ons to your regular routine to target specific concerns: the Hyaluronic Acid Booster for dehydration, the Renewal Oil for moisture, the new Retinol one to firm and prevent fine lines, and lastly my C15 to fight hyperpigmentation and dark spots as well as brighten the skin. You can either use them alone, like a serum, or mix them into your moisturizer or lotion. The C15 Super Booster contains 15% of ascorbic acid (according to Beautypedia, the most effective but difficult to stabilize form of Vitamin C) as well as Vitamin E, ferulic acid and octapeptide.
The texture of this product is very liquidy and feels almost like an extremely lightweight oil that sinks into my skin immediately with no residue whatsoever. A lot of Paula's Choice fans have commented on the strange smell of this product, and while I have to agree it's not very pleasant as you're applying it (to me, it smells a bit like mayo?), the scent doesn't linger and doesn't really bother me in the least. If you've been a regular reader of my blog for a while, you know that I really enjoy having a Vitamin C serum in my routine and have tried a lot of different ones in the past. I have to say that the Paula's Choice C15 is definitely in my top three; after four weeks of using it every night, I have noticed an improvement in my freckles/ sun spots, and my post-acne hyperpigmentation marks fade significantly faster. It may seem like the C15 Booster is very expensive for the small amount you're getting in the bottle, but ascorbic acid products need to be used quickly after opening (the C15 Booster has a three month shelf life, according to the packaging), otherwise they start to oxidize and may actually do more harm than good to your skin - so I decided to go ahead and also use the Booster on my hands and chest, which always get the most sun damage. I really like this Booster and would consider repurchasing next time I'm in the market for a Vitamin C product.
Whew, that was a lot of information, wasn't it? I'm sorry if you found this a little wordy, but I like to give you pros and cons about each product I'm reviewing so that it's more helpful when you're making the decision to purchase (or not). As far as my overall thoughts after following this routine exclusively for four weeks, I'm very happy that I got to try these products, because I feel that they taught me more about my own skin. What I specifically mean is that I didn't realize my skin was so prone to dehydration and dryness; I previously thought my skin was more combination/oily, but right now I would say that it's probably leaning more combination/dry. Due to the dryness I've been experiencing by following the Hydralight routine to a T, I broke down after three weeks and reintroduced a very basic hydrating serum (Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion) to layer under my moisturizer - and I even think I could amp up the nourishment a little bit more from there by adding in a facial oil at night. By switching out my cleanser and adding in an extra hydrator, my face is already feeling a lot more comfortable, and the bumps on my forehead have started to go away.
So while not all of the products I was recommended worked out for me, I did very much enjoy clearing out my medicine cabinet of all the extraneous bottles to follow this simplified, no fuss routine for a month. I will continue to use all of these products with the exception of the One Step Cleanser, and while I currently have products from other lines to supplement what I lacked in my Paula's Choice regime
, I absolutely think I could customize the Hydralight routine further with other Paula's Choice products such as the RESIST Hydrating Cleanser, Hyaluronic Acid or Renewal Oil Boosters. Paula's Choice
continues to be one of my favorite affordable skincare lines, and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to road test more of their products. Have you ever followed a skincare routine with products from just one brand? What are your favorite Paula's Choice products?
If you've been thinking about placing a PC order, don't forget to use my code PRIMPFALL20
for 20% off your purchase and free shipping - and get on that discount now, the code expires Dec 31st 2015!
PS. You can read even more reviews on Paula's Choice as well as hundreds more brands on the Pretty In My Pocket app, which you can download here: http://www.prettyinmypocket.com/download