January skincare: hits and “won’t buys.”

The January contenders

One of my forever quests – aside from trying to determine if there is a way to live off pizza and cheesecake without it sticking to my midsection – is trying new skincare products.

My morning routine and evening routines are set in stone. However on Sundays I like to give myself a facial at home, and throughout the week I might use a hydrating or brightening mask if I’m starting to look a little dull.

Back in December my mom gave me an Ulta gift card, which I used to go on a skincare haul. Now that it’s been a month, I want to share which stuff I’m using and liking, as well as which things I’m glad I tried and plan on finishing … but won’t be buying again.

So from not-so-hot to best, here we go.

“Meh”: Soap & Glory The Scrub of Your Life

Why I’m not a fan: The fragrance is way too strong.

I wanted to try a different body exfoliator for my feet, knees and elbows, since I’m prone to dry skin and those three areas take a beating with dry winter air and running. The gel that comes out lathers well and my skin felt better after using it, but the fragrance is overpowering. I looked up the notes, which are all scents I enjoy or have used in the past with no problem – bergamot, mandarin, rose and strawberry, to give you a few examples. I don’t mind some fragrance, but frankly, this stuff reminded me of what someone’s grandma would inadvertently douse herself in. Her sense of smell may be gone, but for anyone within a 50 yard radius, they know Granny’s coming. I’ll finish up the tube, but this one is definitely on the “do not buy” list.

“Just Okay”: Pacifica Sugared Crystal Supercharged Body Scrub

Why I’m not a fan: It’s just not impressive

The good news is that Pacifica’s body scrub doesn’t have the overwhelming fragrance. The main notes are sugar, watermelon and quartz, and I’m not even going to try and guess what that last note would smell like. A rock? It wasn’t a bad product, but it wasn’t amazing either. It was just okay, and I didn’t care how it lathered. Actually, now that I think about it, I have a face wash from the same brand that also doesn’t lather or rinse off well. Overall, I don’t recommend it.

Had to figure it out first: Mad Hippie Advanced Skin Care Cleansing Oil

Why I converted: it’s great when used as a second oil cleanse.

I use an oil cleanser from Burt’s Bees that has coconut and argan oils in it, and it does a great job of removing makeup. I was watching an esthetician on YouTube talk about double oil cleansing to really get the gunk off at the end of the day, and it sounded like a good idea. I picked up the Mad Hippie cleansing oil because it has eight actives in it, including ginger, organic rosehip and pumpkin seed oil. On the first night I used it I noticed it was thick and removed my makeup, which was a good thing. But when I wiped my face off gently per the instructions on the box, I turned red and rashy, for lack of better term. Immediately I wished I hadn’t bought it, but then a few weeks later I decided to try it as a second oil cleanse after my Burt’s Bees. Ordering the oil cleansers that way not only got my makeup off, but my skin afterward was so soft without any redness. I’m keeping both oils in my arsenal.

First impressions were deceiving: Freeman Indian Turmeric Gel Cream Mask

What changed my mind: realizing it’s a great standalone product, but probably shouldn’t be part of a multi-step facial.

Freeman face masks are great. They’re inexpensive and they work, and with previous masks I’ve used, I’ve never had any complaints. However, I made a dumb move on my first night that almost soured me on the Indian turmeric mask. I used it as a mask in a facial routine and as soon as I sat down for those ten minutes to pass, my face felt like it was on fire. My eyes especially took the brunt of it – I felt no different than if I were standing around the kitchen when someone was cutting onions. A week later I decided to try to mask on its own. The burning, stinging sensation wasn’t there and I was so relieved. In the future I may try other hydrating masks, but the Freeman Indian turmeric mask is a good option.

“Hey, this is super nice!”: Bliss Pumpkin Powerhouse Resurfacing and Exfoliating Enzyme Mask

Why I love it: it’s gentle and effective

Since I’ve been using chemical exfoliates and retinoids for a year, I’ve avoided physical exfoliates like the plague. For every one great product, there’s a sea of physical exfoliates that are too harsh on the skin. There’s a reason why St. Ives Apricot Scrub gets knocked online, and skincare enthusiasts and estheticians generally recommend not using them. Physical exfoliates can leave micro tears on the skin, which does more harm than good. However, when I saw the pumpkin mask, it reminded me of a treatment my salon offers, which uses pumpkin as part of a resurfacing peel (specifically, the treatment is a yam and pumpkin refining peel. I just looked it up.) So I decided to give it a try. My verdict? This is the only physical exfoliate I’m willing to use on my face. The mask is so soft and goes on smoothly. It’s gentle and once it’s time to gently wipe off the mask, the skin underneath is so soft and nourished. I use this mask once and sometimes twice a week, and honestly can call it game-changing.

Brand new holy grail: Bliss Mighty Marshmallow Bright & Radiant Whipped Mask

Why I love it: Honest to God, it’s just that great.

I can’t say enough about the marshmallow mask. First, it’s a soft mousse that feels so good on the skin. Secondly, the smell of marshmallow is perfect – not overpowering, just right to get me excited to put in on my face. The end result after the recommended 10 to 15 minutes is visibly brighter, glowing skin. This is easily one of my favorite masks of all time and one I can’t recommend enough.

So for all of you who read to the end – thank you. I hope you have a phenomenal week ahead and show the day who’s boss.

Yours in writing and running,


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