skin care

Product review: StriVectin Advanced Retinol Pore Refiner

(Disclosure:  I received a sample of this product for testing purposes from iFabbo and StriVectin; however I was not compensated for writing a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

StriVectin Advanced Retinol Pore Refiner

The product: StriVectin Advanced Retinol Pore Refiner, $99/1.7 fl. oz. at beauty retailers like ULTA and Sephora or online through Strivectin.com. Catch up with StriVectin on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @StriVectin and check out the hashtag #StriVeSTORY for more on the brand.

The claim: A lightweight treatment that combines the power of retinol with skin-soothing hydration for skin that looks smoother and tighter. No irritation, redness or peeling as with traditional retinol treatments.Reduces the visible size of pores and delivers an instant mattifying effect. Wear alone for a #nofilter #nomakeup day or use as a primer under foundation.

I tried it: It seems like ever since I passed my mid-twenties, my skin needs more attention than ever. This winter especially, I’m fighting uneven texture and dullness. It seems like every beauty magazine I’ve opened recently is shouting “retinol!” as a solution but I’ve been leery of trying anything with retinol since it’s notorious for causing irritation, and my skin is already sensitive in the winter.

So, I was really intrigued by this hybrid treatment, which promises long-term skin improvement without any short-term side effects. It layers quite nicely over other skin care products and under makeup without adding shine or making my face feel slick. Worn alone, it gives skin a soft-focus effect that blurs imperfections and lets me skip a full face of foundation.

This product has a very faint, clean fragrance but it fades quickly upon application. I experienced no redness, dryness or other irritation while using it. It isn’t a moisturizer, so you’ll definitely want to layer it—I used it over my facial oil, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

I got several compliments on my skin while wearing this product sans makeup, which surprised me, since I don’t think my skin has been in its best shape this past month. I was very pleased with what a boost I got from a teeny, tiny dollop of product. With the size of the tube and the pump packaging, this will last me quite a while, even if used twice a day as recommended.

In summary: My biggest hesitation with this product is the steep price tag, but considering that a tube will easily last you several months, and if you could snag it on sale, I think it would be a worthwhile splurge.

Anyone else tried the StriVectin Advanced Retinol Pore Refiner? Any favorite retinol products you can recommend, or are you, like me, a retinol newbie? What’s your favorite skin care product for a no-makeup day?

Product review: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

(Disclosure: I was sent a sample product for testing purposes; however I was not compensated to write a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Can you guys believe it’s July already?! We’ve had nothing but sun lately and temps near 100, and it’s been intense–even driving in the car you’re liable to get a sunburn if you don’t slather on SPF first. Kelly from Block Island Organics got in touch recently to see if I’d like to review some of their new mineral sunscreen and of course I jumped at the chance to try it out–here’s what I thought after a long, bright weekend!

Check out my review of the Block Island Organics natural mineral sunscreen! It's SPF 30 and free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, and other nasty ingredients. Plus it's vegan and goes on super-sheer, so you won't feel greasy by midday!

The product: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30; $19.99/3.4-oz. through the company website, BlockIslandOrganics.com. (Currently on sale for $16.99!)

What it does: A lightweight, fast-absorbing sunscreen free of nanoparticles, gluten, animal ingredients, artificial fragrances and dye, parabens, phthalates, sulfates and petrochemicals. (Whew, what a mouthful!) Suitable for face and body. Block Island Organics is family-owned, USA-produced, and committed to producing simple, effective, affordable formulas without the harmful ingredients found in traditional skincare products.

I tried it: Hands-down, my biggest pet peeve with sunscreen is that it feels and smells like, well, sunscreen. You know: greasy and chemical-laden, and not at all pleasant. You can’t exactly forget you’re wearing it. Luckily, sunscreens have come a long way in recent years and now we have products like this one, which are so light you might mistake them for regular moisturizer. In fact, I would say this is one of the nicest sunscreens I’ve tried recently in terms of weight, texture and scent. The formula is super-thin, so it absorbs quickly and without that infamous white cast left behind by some zinc sunscreens. My skin felt dry to the touch afterward. The scent is nearly undetectable, too, and the dye-free/fragrance-free formula didn’t irritate my sensitive skin.

I also have to say that I really, really love being able to tote one bottle in my bag for face and body alike! I’ve found some sunscreens that were fine for my body, but couldn’t be used on my face because they stung my eyes, turned my skin slick or made me break out. Not so with this sunscreen! You could easily layer this with makeup if desired; I used it over my regular facial moisturizer.

This sunscreen isn’t waterproof, so you’ll need to reapply after swimming or if you’re sweating heavily, but since you’re supposed to be reapplying your sunscreen frequently anyway, I don’t feel like this is a big deal. It’s so light, and a little goes a really long way–no need to goop it on–so it doesn’t feel like you’re suffocating your skin.

Overall I love this sunscreen; it takes all the “yuck” out of daily wear, so I can stay protected from the sun without feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Block Island Organics has generously offered readers a 15% sitewide discount, so you can try out their products for yourself! Just use the coupon code “Martha” at checkout, now through July 7th!

Check out Block Island Organics on social media: Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter

Ingredients: Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 22%. Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera Gel) Juice*, Aqua (Deionized Water), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Oil, Gluconolactone, Glycerin*, Lecithin*, Octyl Palmitate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Zemea Propanediol. (*Certified Organic)  

Product review: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream

I’ve struggled with dry hands all winter and have tried a few different hand creams, without finding one I really love. Now that spring is here my skin isn’t quite so dry, but I still need something, so I picked up this fresh-smelling hand cream from my local natural foods store.

Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream review from I'd Rather Be Reading blog

What it is: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream; $8.95/3.4 ounces. An organic, vegan and gluten-free hand cream designed to nourish dry hands and cuticles.

What it does: It’s a fairly thick cream that absorbs quickly and smells strongly of lavender, without that baby powder tendency found in some lavender-scented products. It’s less sweet and more earthy, which I like.  I do feel like the scent fades quickly.

I like how this feels on my skin, but it’s still not quite thick enough for the winter months. You still have to reapply every couple of hours or after washing your hands, and I’ll be shopping for something a bit thicker for the colder, drier winter months. That said, I feel like this will be a good hand cream for the spring-to-fall period, when I want something with a medium thickness and a clean scent. I also really love that the profits from this hand cream support projects to benefit women’s education–I feel that it’s important for companies to find ways to give back to society, and human rights and education are important to me.

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Juice (organic), Aqua, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil (organic), Stearic Acid, Prunus Amygdalus (Sweet Almond) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (organic), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter (organic), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Butter, Vegetable Glycerin, Calophyllum Inophyllum (tamanu) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Malus Domestica (apple), Solar Vitis (grape), Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) (Fruit Stem Cell Cultures and BioActive 8 Berry Complex. Organic), Allantoin, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract (organic), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil (organic), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Oil, Xanthan Gum, ethylhexyl glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Oil (organic).

Product review: Dermalogica Precleanse oil and wipes

(Disclosure: I received samples of the products mentioned in this post for testing purposes; however I was not compensated for writing a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Dermalogica Precleanse

What it is: Dermalogica Precleanse oil ($38/5.1 oz.) and wipes ($18/20 ct.). Available through major beauty retailers like ULTA or through the Dermalogica website.

What it does: This lightweight cleansing oil works to dissolve excess dirt, oil and makeup on the surface of the skin prior to regular cleansing, allowing your regular cleanser to penetrate more deeply, resulting in a deeper, better clean. The wipes are biodegradable and travel-friendly.

I tried it: I feel like the best test of any “precleanse” or makeup remover is what I like to call the “classic Hollywood face”: foundation, liquid liner, mascara, and of course matte red lipstick. These precleansers took it all off with ease, allowing me to move on with my regular cleanser (which isn’t designed to remove makeup, especially around the eyes).  I usually use coconut oil to remove heavy makeup and I think that these were definitely less messy,not to mention they left behind less residue. Neither irritated my skin or eyes.

Final thoughts: A couple of things keep me from totally loving this duo: first, the price, and second, the long list of less-than-natural ingredients. It’s true that these precleansers are a little less toxic than some others on the market, but they still contain ingredients like phenoxyethanol and a handful of parabens, so they’re not as “green” as I’d like. (You can view the full ingredients list below.) I do have to admit that they’re much less messy than natural oil and if you have nut allergy concerns then these might be a more attractive option. For performance I would give this product a 10/10, and overall a 6/10.

Ingredients: Oil: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Aleurites Moluccana Seed Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (To-mato) Extract, Tocopherol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Decyl Olive Esters, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Citral, Limonene, Linalool, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben. Wipes: Water/Aqua/Eau, Cyclopentasiloxane, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Dicaprylyl Ether, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids, Prunus Armeniaca Kernel Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Mentha Viridis Leaf Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium PCA, Sodium Benzoate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tocopherol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Chloride, Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Citral, Phenoxyethanol. Dermalogica is listed on the Leaping Bunny website as a bunny-friendly company.

Product review: Monat Global Rejuveniqe Oil Intensive

(Disclosure: I received a sample of this product for testing purposes; however I was not compensated for writing a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Monat Rejuveniqe Oil Intensive

What it is: Monat Global Rejuveniqe Oil Intensive, a natural oil blend designed to nourish the scalp and alleviate hair thinning and damage while adding body and shine, without the harmful effects of synthetic ingredients like silicone. Also suitable for use on the skin. $99/1-fl. oz. through the Monat website.

Ingredients: Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Adansonia Digitata Oil, Mauritia Flexuosa Fruit Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Gardenia Tahitensis Flower Extract, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Caryocar Brasiliense Fruit Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil.

What it does: If you had told me a few years ago that I would one day slather natural oils on my skin and in my hair, I would have laughed at you. But now what sounds like a hippie concept (and an invitation to greasy strands and breakouts) is actually my go-to choice for keeping my skin and hair healthy. Natural oil blends add moisture and repair damage without harmful, animal-tested or animal-sourced synthetics, and many oil blends–like this one–are multi-purpose, suitable for use on the hair, skin and nails.

This oil has a very faint natural scent and absorbs quickly, and I like the glass dropper/pump combo style of the bottle. (I find this is the easiest way to use oils on the scalp without making a mess.) A little goes a long way, especially on the hair. This is great as a pre-shampoo scalp treatment, and if you had thicker hair, you could also use it on the ends post-shower to protect them from heat damage and add silkiness. I think that with steady use you would definitely see stronger hair; I can see a small change but I’ve also only been using it a couple of times a week, on the days I shampoo. Massaged into the cuticles, it softens and strengthens, and it’s also nice on dry, rough patches on the hands and feet.

As much as I love this product, though, I can’t bring myself to justify the price. It’s way too far out of my budget range, especially with the husband back in school. Unfortunately that makes it a no-buy for me.

Find Monat on social media: @MONATOfficial on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Do you have any natural oil products that you can’t live without? Any natural products that you once thought you’d never embrace? Tell me about them!

 

Product review: Instanatural Pure Argan Oil and Pure Rosehip Seed Oil

(Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.)

 

The product: Instanatural Pure Argan Oil, $49.95/four ounces (currently on sale for $21.95; available here), and Instanatural Pure Rosehip Seed Oil, $49.95/four ounces (currently on sale for $21.99; available here). Visit the company website here.

The claim: Touted as multi-use oils perfect for hair, skin, and nails. Softens and moisturizes.

Ingredients: Exactly what it says on the bottle; no added fillers, preservatives, fragrances, etc. Certified organic and suitable for vegans. Because these are preservative-free, they’re best stored in the fridge.

I tried it: The oils come in four ounce dark glass bottles with droppers attached inside the screw-on caps. I really love this packaging since it’s practical and sturdy. The dropper lets you dispense the product a few drops at a time, which is perfect, since a little goes a long way. It’s a myth that you can only use oils on very dry skin; as long as you’re only using a few drops, these oils work well even on combo skin like mine and won’t turn you greasy or make you break out.

The argan oil has a light amber color and a very faint nutty scent. This works great for moisturizing the cuticles or for softening dry, rough patches of skin. It’s a slightly “dry” oil, so it doesn’t leave the skin feeling super-slick. I also like using it on the ends of my hair, before applying a leave-in conditioner, to help tame any split ends or roughness. If you want a good makeup remover that won’t stink, sting or dry out the skin, try a few drops of this on a cotton pad before washing the face as usual. (Be careful around the eyes–anything stings once it’s in the eyes, natural or not.)

The rosehip seed oil has a darker amber color and a very strong, earthy scent; it makes me think of freshly brewed tea. I personally like this type of scent (I call them “hippie” scents), but if you prefer unfragranced products, it probably isn’t for you, just because it’s so strong. Note that it isn’t an artificially added fragrance, nor do I think it smells bad–it’s just something to keep in mind if you don’t like products with a distinct fragrance.

The rosehip seed oil is also slightly dry and works great on the face. It can also be used on hands, nails, feet, and body. This type of oil is supposed to help with scars, sunburns and sun damage, thanks to high levels of vitamins A and C, though I haven’t been using it long enough to say for sure if that’s the case. I do know that it’s an excellent day or night moisturizer, layers well under makeup, and leaves my face very soft and glowy without any shininess or grease. I felt like my face looked more refreshed after using this as an overnight moisturizer, like I’d gotten more sleep than I really had.

My final review: 10/10. These are a great value and are excellent multi-taskers to boot. I’m particularly fond of the rosehip seed oil, though if you dislike strong scents, the argan might be more up your alley. Either way, they do a great job of replacing a host of other less natural products, so they’re a great choice if you’re looking to “green” your beauty routine and don’t want to drop a lot of money on tons of different skin and hair care products.

(I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.)

Product review: PureSol Konjac Sponge

(Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial. )
This konjac sponge is my new HG beauty buy!

The product: PureSol Konjac Facial Sponge with added Bamboo Charcoal; retails for $24.95 at Amazon.com (buy it here). Currently on sale for $10. Check out the company’s Facebook page here.

The claim: Cleanses, exfoliates and brightens skin. Because it’s so gentle, it’s perfect for even very sensitive or irritated skin. Can be used solo or with your favorite cleanser.

Ingredients: Made of vegetable fiber and lacking any processed ingredients or additives (fragrances, colorants, etc.), this is a 100% green and vegan product. When you’re done with it, it can be composted or even simply tossed in a flower pot rather than going in the garbage.

This konjac sponge is my new HG beauty buy!

 

I tried it: Every once in a while I come across a new product that truly earns the “holy grail” status in my beauty stash. I didn’t know what was so special about this sponge until I ordered it; within a week it shot to HG status and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The picture above shows the sponge when dry; after about ten minutes soaking in a bowl of water, it expands by about 50% and becomes super-soft. There’s a little string so you can hang it up to dry in between uses (a suction cup hook is included in the package). The sponge can be easily sterilized every couple of weeks by popping it in the microwave or in some boiling water. When you’re done with the sponge (the company says each one lasts about two to three months), throw it in the compost pile or even in a flower pot–no waste left over for the trash!  I also love that it’s 100% chemical-free and has no scent.

This sponge exfoliates in the most oh-so-gentle way imaginable, making it excellent for anyone with hypersensitive skin or a condition like rosacea that can be irritated by exfoliating facial scrubs. You almost can’t tell that it’s exfoliating–it’s that gentle–but you can definitely see and feel the difference once you’re done. It’s much gentler than using a washcloth. I love using this with a basic foaming cleanser in the mornings–it’s a great way to get that “glow” without irritating my skin with a scrub (and you shouldn’t be using those scrubs every day anyway, as we all know!).

I’ve been using this every day for about a week or so now and my skin is positively glowing. The irritated red patches around my nose and jaw where over-exfoliation was irking my skin have disappeared. My pores look smaller, most noticeably in my T-zone, where it’s always been a battle between blackheads and over-exfoliation. My skin feels super-soft, too.

Adding this unassuming little sponge to my daily skin care routine has done more for my skin than any other product I’ve tried since Christine got me hooked on the Seventh Generation Boost serums last winter. I can now safely say this is one of those rare skin care products I’m not willing to live without!

My final review: 10/10. This is truly the best new facial product I’ve tried in a long time, and I would recommend it to anyone. Will definitely be repurchasing when I’m done with this one!

(Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.)

Product review: Adovia Natural Dead Sea Mud Soap

(Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.)

 

The product: Adovia Natural Dead Sea Mud Soap; $16/4.4-oz. bar. Available through Amazon.com.

The claim: Great for eczema, psoriasis or acne. Dead Sea mud minerals keep the skin hydrated while also cleansing to remove impurities. Made with natural and animal-friendly ingredients.

Ingredients: 80% Palm/ 20% Palm Kernel oil, Dead Sea Salts, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Deionized Water (Aqua), Natural extract (Fragrance).

My experience: I’m not a big fan of using bar soaps to wash my face. For the most part I find that they fall into one of several categories: too drying, too abrasive, doesn’t clean well enough, leaves a film, etc. In short, just not up to par for cleaning my sensitive, somewhat dry yet acne-prone skin.

This soap is really different from anything else I’ve tried. It does a wonderful job of cleaning my oily T-zone without over-drying, and it doesn’t leave my skin feeling scummy. My skin just feels super-clean and pleasant. I do think it’s helping reduce my breakouts, which is awesome, since I’ve been going through a period of stress-related breakouts recently and nothing else seems to be taming them. I don’t have eczema or psoriasis so I can’t say how it would help with those skin conditions.

This soap does have a very faint earthy smell, owing to the natural ingredients. Personally I’m fine with that, especially compared to harsh chemical fragrances (which my skin typically finds irritating). I don’t think the scent would be an issue for most users, since it isn’t overpowering.

My final review: 9/10. It’s a little pricey unless you snag it on sale, but overall I do think it’s a worthwhile investment for problem skin, and it’s a pretty generous size for a bar.

(I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.)