Big brand skincare is convenient, and it’s familiar. We know brands like Clinique and Estee Lauder. We’re prepared for what we get with Neutrogena and L’Oreal. But do we actually experience the firmer skin and wrinkle reduction we’re promised on the label? Do we see visibly diminished dark spots in just 4 weeks?
Obviously, that’s a subjective question. This post isn’t about hating on the big brands. I mean, my favorite face wash is Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser. It’s oil-free, goes on smooth, has a cooling effect, and works. For me, at least. That’s why I’m not going to sit here like a keyboard vigilante and tell you that big brand skincare is a load of shit when my whole bathroom is full of it. If you’ve got a good thing going with your big brand products, keep at it. Everybody’s skin is different. Do you.
But if you’re like me, there comes the point when you get super sick of buying overpriced, over-hyped products just because they’re there. Just because they’re convenient, recognizable, and they pack no surprises.
I feel about these skincare lines the way I feel about the Billboard Top 100. There’s some quality stuff, but mostly it’s just okay and pretty underwhelming. Then there’s the garbage that so obviously sucks, it should be discontinued immediately, and we keep buying it (Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturiser for $26.99, Ed Sheeran, all drugstore “dark spot correctors,” Chris Brown ft. Drake). Get. In. The. SEA.
So if you’re in the market to try out some new skincare products, here’s a list of affordable alternative options. They can all be bought online, and most are conveniently located on Amazon. All have been tested in the lab of my face and can be applied from the comfort of your home.
Essential Oil Moisturizer
Specifically, my own sweet little combo of Tea Tree + Rosehip + Rose Geranium. I won’t get too deep into specifics here because this is my number one face serum, and in my skin-salvation-bible, it is second only to drinking 3L of water a day. This essential oil moisturizer combined with daily water tracking is so important to my life that they each require their own separate post. You can find all the details about this nectar-of-the-gods essential oil combo here, and my post about water being the holy grail next week. So hold onto your wagons, guys.
Note: when using essential oils on the face, always check if what you’re using requires carrier oil before you slather it all over your skin and melt it off. Also, buy quality products if you’re putting it on your skin or ingesting it. In my experience, USDA approved organic essential oils are pretty reliable, so I would start there and check reviews.
Hyaluronic acid (hyaluronan) is a natural substance produced by your body that functions primarily to retain water and keep tissues hydrated. It’s a popular skincare method that can be applied to the face as a serum or taken orally as a supplement. It’s also used in cosmetic dermal fillers like Juvederm. I’ve had Juvederm lip fillers before and let me be very clear: they are everything.
Users of hyaluronic acid report wrinkle reduction, increased elasticity, suppleness, firmness, and brightness. Since introducing hyaluronic acid into my skincare regime, I’ve definitely noticed the dark circles under my eyes lessen, and the overall suppleness of my face improved. There is some scientific evidence to indicate hyaluronic acid’s benefit in anti-aging, wrinkle reduction, and moisturizing.
My preference is to apply it as a serum. I’ve used Cosmedica Skincare Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum for almost two years now. It’s natural, organic, vegan, paraben-free, oil-free, and has no dyes, fragrances, or fillers. So, there you go. It’s the purest purity a madgirl earth goddess is going to find without extricating it straight from another person’s watery tissue matter with a syringe.
Margarite Tinted Zinc Cream
Yall. I’ve been using this religiously for like six years now. You can buy it on Amazon here.
You will buy it on Amazon there.
When I break out, the first thing I want to do is slather on the concealer and forget all about it. Out of sight, out of mind, out of memory, out of the eyes of anyone else. But I know – I know – you’re not supposed to do that, just like you’re not supposed to pop zits no matter how satisfying it would be. I know the rules, so back off.
What makes this cream so great is that it’s an acne treatment, but it’s also the texture and tint of concealer. So, instead of worsening acne with makeup, you can cover it with zinc cream and also be treating it. I mean, if that’s not the American dream…
The active ingredient is 4% sulfur. In terms of acne treatment, sulfur works similarly to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in drying the skin surface to soak up the excess sebum. See uuuuuuu.
Beauty Nymph Spa Home Facial Steamer
No really, that’s what it’s called. This is the beauty nymphs’ gift to humankind, and their chosen distributor is Amazon. You can check it out here.
Basically, this is a humidifier that you can stick your giant face into like Harry Potter sticks his giant face into that memory bowl in Dumbledore’s office. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Don’t play.
It’s called a Pensieve, and you can’t afford it. Move on.
So, what can steam offer besides a 10-minute treat-yo-self session? Turns out, quite a bit.
Benefits of Steaming
Steaming cleanses the skin by opening pores and removing excess dirt and grime accumulated throughout the day. This is especially great if you live in a city or a town, or a suburb, or basically anywhere that has air and isn’t a rainforest. Oh yeah, we’ve got a pretty dire air pollution problem. Whaaat.
That’s right. Air pollution is so terrible and widespread that 91% of the global population lives in places that exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality limits. Remember in 2017 when London reached its legal annual air pollution limit within 5 days of the new year? Again, that’s annual legal limit. In 5 days. LOL. No wonder I developed asthma and had to wear a surgeon’s mask over my face. Currently, I live in Houston, TX. which is ranked 9th in the nation for ozone pollution.
Cute, cute, cute, cute, cuuuute.
So yeah, wherever you are, there’s a veil of pollution forming over your face right now. Obviously, this is doing wonders for your skin, so wash your face, then steam the remnants of that grimy shit off.
Steaming can improve acne by clearing away impurities, trapped sebum, and acne-causing bacteria. Add a couple drops of tea tree oil to the water for the added antibacterial benefits.
Hydration & Moisture
Steaming hydrates and moisturizes skin. It increases permeability allowing for greater absorption of topical ointments and serums, and it promotes collagen production, which is the key to youthful skin.
Allergies, Sinuses & Respiratory Health
Steaming is great for clearing sinuses and congestion because warm water vapor helps loosen mucus and soothe inflammation in the nasal passage, throat, and lungs. This makes it a handy device to have around when you catch a cold or any other upper respiratory infection, as well as when allergies flare up.
I use my steamer when I feel an asthma attack coming on, and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to help soothe my airways and aid breathing.
Note: I am NOT saying that a plastic steamer from Amazon can act as a substitute for inhalers or cure respiratory infections. Please chill.
And remember to be safe, not stupid.
The Beauty Nymph steamer comes with a nasal mask and a facial mask that twist on and off easily. Just make sure you secure the mask into the locked position before lifting or carrying the steamer while it’s on. Trust me. That water is boiling. You may think this obvious since it’s a steamer, but some of us forget and end up carrying those burns with us as permanent reminders of our stupidity.
To reiterate, never lift the Beauty Nymph steamer without ensuring the mask is in the locked position.
Dermal Face Masks
I’m not going to lie to you. These are Korean face masks, but I promise the fad is warranted. They’re great. It’s like laying a sheet of hyaluronic acid on your face for twenty minutes. You can get a 24-pack for like $14, and it comes with a variety of masks that have names like Rose, Apricot, Aloe, Cucumber, Royal Jelly, Vegetable Placenta, Snail, and SYN-AKE. So, they’re pulling no punches. You know exactly what you’re getting with these babies.
To prep my skin, I like to use the Beauty Nymph facial steamer for 10 minutes first, then apply the mask and lie on my bed for 20 minutes looking like Leatherface.
SKINovative Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Skin Scrub
Exfoliating (in moderation) is a crucial part of skincare routines because it helps remove dry and dead skin cells and that sweet layer of grime.
Now, this is a serious exfoliating scrub. It’s what they use in marine training camps to toughen up new recruits (it’s not). If you’ve waxed any part of your body or been run over by an eighteen-wheeler, you’ll breeze right through this. Just imagine rubbing your face with a gloop of mud that has tiny crumbles of gravel in it. That’s all this is.
And now that I’ve sold the shit out of this product, you can go ahead and buy it here.
Honestly, it’s a good scrub. I wouldn’t use it more than once a week, but my face feels flawless as silk after I do. Probably because I’ve shed an entire layer of skin like a reptile, but that’s what it takes to be reborn.
Microneedle Derma Roller
More specifically, Sdara Skincare Microneedle Derma Roller .25mm. This was the first brand of dermaroller I ever bought, and it really was a win on the first try. Since you’re supposed to discard the rollers after about three months, I ended up trying three other brands before realizing Sdara > everyone and everything.
If you’ve never tried microneedling, you can read more about it here. Basically, you roll the spiky wheel over facial areas you want to smooth, brighten, or firm, and it creates little puncture wounds that stimulate collagen production. Sounds fun, I know, but of all the skincare approaches I’ve ever tried, I’ve never seen such immediate visible results.
Listen, I don’t want to bullshit you. I have no motive. It’s not like I work for these companies, and I’m not getting a commission, unfortunately. So believe me when I tell you that jade rollers are a joke, but dermarollers are king.
I use the dermaroller on my lips, forehead, and under eyes. Within 24-hours, the shadows and bags are gone from my eyes – I mean gone – and the creases in my forehead are noticeably smoother. I have an overall facial appearance that is just brighter and healthier. Make sure you use some sort of serum with a dermaroller, like the hyaluronic acid serum or a Vitamin C serum like this one. Never roll spikes over a dry face, my gaad. After microneedling, I like to apply a touch of Neosporin ointment, so nothing gets into my tiny wounds. Then I wait a bit before nourishing my face with the gift of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Delish.
Note: for a few hours after application, your face will be red and sensitive, so I wouldn’t recommend microneedling an hour before your boss’s gallery opening charity gala benefit ceremony. You’ll look rough. Also, don’t get carried away. Put at least two weeks between each use. Give your poor skin a break.
Hopefully, there was something in this post that you don’t already use, and that managed to intrigue you. As I mentioned before, I don’t work for these companies so you can be sure I actually believe in the products. My sole motive for sharing is the hope that something on this list might benefit you on your road to health and beauty.
Mainly because I don’t want to look at your ugly faces.