Choosing Skin Care @ Sephora

Sephora is the land of all things colorful and fun, I’m obsessed and I know I’m not alone. Still there are A LOT of products and most are VERY expensive, so knowing what to buy can be tricky. Since I shop there a lot I get asked a lot of questions about what I actually buy. While I have a few favorites, I’m always trying new things and I recently decided to slow down on the make-up front and focus on some fancy skin care. My goals are anti-aging but really healthy glowing, non-broken-out skin is what I’m after.

I never use limited editions skin care because it takes way too much research to pick it in the first place!

Reviews are the first place I look. I read a few from each star category – often beauty bloggers get on a band wagon and then everyone who paid $90 disagrees – but usually a product sold at Sephora will be a 4+star product (as it should be). There are so many “review programs” now that people do for free swag that reviews can be tricky, I ignore anyone that reviewed a sample, “just bought the product yesterday”, references an allergic reaction and blames the brand (please test products on your arms, chemicals are harsh and natural ingredients are derived from allergens), or is just too dang glowy. Did it change your life? Really? The Q&A will give the best picture of the product, and I head there next now that I’m certain at least a handful of people really benefited from the product. How long will the tube last, smell, texture, results? These things are addressed in Q&A and are useful.

Then there is the ingredient review… I already liked what was listed on the front of the box enough to consider buying the product but getting into the full ingredient list is a head ache. People talk about a “holy grail” product but there are no products that have none of the baddies and all of the effects.

There are a few key ingredients that are great for your skin Vitamin A, E, Aloe, shea butter, glycerin oat – you’ve heard all of these before – and there are ingredients that are bad for your skin – parabens etc. etc. – but what about those mystery ingredients? The ones that are really hyped up but go under a hundred different scientific names and require a PhD to understand?

I always look for things within the product that may create a false positive. For example a night cream that contains “reflective pigments”, why? These will make you LOOK more awake but they will also make it difficult to see if there is any long-term result (and long-term results are why we’re paying $80 and not $20). Optic brighteners fall into this category, these absorb UV light and emit viable light, ex. caffeine or Magnolia Extract. These are great as makeup but don’t really constitute skin care since the effects are temporary. They don’t actually change your pigmentation like some things…

I’m wary of the words “brightening”, “radiance”, and “reduces photo-aging”, sure I want my skin to be bright but I don’t want it to be lightened. Alpha Arbutin is a popular ingredient for “brightening” and it is a skin lightener (used for age spots). Hydro-quinine is the most potent and famous lightener but Ascorbyl Glucoside pops up a lot too. Ascorbyl Glucoside can also be listed as Vitamin C on the front of the bottle. There is nothing wrong with using brighteners or lighteners but if you look at reviews you’ll see people say they are suddenly going down a color shade in foundation – which is not my goal. I particularly hate the term “corrects uneven skin tone” which I used to read as redness (my problem) but actually means dark spots. *** If you’re only looking to prevent aging look for products that defend from environmental factors rather than the more aggressive (and expensive) anti-aging treatments. You are building a line of defense here, if you do begin to see wrinkles find a targeted product (glycolic acid is great for cell renewal) and use only where you need it. 20s = defense 30s = anti-wrinkle 40s = lifting 50s = brightening , the trick is to stay a decade ahead of the problem. (Genetics runs a huge curve here too)

Foaming cleansers – beauty blogs claim these guys will mess with your face’s PH balance and cause break-outs and aging, I’ve heard that the chemical that makes them foam is bad for you, still there are tons of reputable foaming cleansers on the market. The jury seems to be out on this but I’m still staying away (never really liked them anyway). There’s an interesting back and forth/Q&A on this blog.

Vitamin C / L-ascorbic acid – it is pretty clear that vitamin C can be stable, unstable, or non-functioning. While the verdict on which chemical compound is BEST for C absorption it seems to be officially recognized that the jar must be air-tight. Get your C in a pump to make it worth your while.

Petroleum– the newest way we’ve all been “doing our make-up wrong” gasp. Generally believed to be safe from reputable brands (possibly carcinogenic from others)- this is great before sports (like skiing) to avoid wind burn. Petroleum seals moisture in so it shouldn’t be the “softening” ingredient in your product. If you’re using Vaseline, apply lotion and then seal it in with Vaseline.

Directions. Sometimes I buy a cleanser or eye roller and don’t read the directions only to discover that I should have been shaking before use or applying in a circular (exfoliation) motion or applying to dry skin. Products will be most effective when used properly and can be damaging when not (like never shaking a product until you’re halfway through and then you’ve used all the saline and now have a puddle of harsh BHAs that burn your skin). We all know that shampoo should be poured in a dime-sized amount (flashback to a 90s Ellen stand-up special) but sometimes those directions will surprise you.

My Shopping List – there is a lot of brand repetition here which reflects who the products are geared for IMO

Daily Moisturizer

Origins – A Perfect World $41 1.7oz

Shiseido IBUKI $45 2.5oz

Shiseido Urban Environment $30 1oz

Night Cream

Origins Night-a-Mins $41

NUDE Advanced Renewal Overnight Repair Mask $48 1.7oz

Night Eyes

Origins Eye Doctor $36 .5oz

Fresh Black Tea Age Delay $85 .5oz

Day Eyes

Shiseido SPF for eyes $36 .6oz

First Aid Beauty Detox Eye Roller $24 .34oz


Glamglow Supercleanse $39 5oz

Perricone MD Blue Plasma Cleansing Treatment $39 4oz

Clay Mask – There are SO many and Body Shop and LUSH have great ones as well, sulfur+clay = awesome

Fresh Umbrian Clay $32 3.3oz

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Mask with Red Clay $30 3oz

Deep Cleansing

Korres Pomegranate Deep Cleansing Scrub $21 1.35oz

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue with Red Clay $24 4.7oz


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