7 Amazing Alternatives to Big Brand Skincare

7 Amazing Alternatives to Big Brand Skincare

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

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

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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.

5 Remedies That Will Change The Way You Sleep

5 Remedies That Will Change The Way You Sleep

We’ve all been there.

Tossing and turning through the night. Lying awake in bed as the minutes tick by. Each passing hour, we tell ourselves if I fall asleep now, I can still get 4 hours’ sleep…3 hours…2 hours…

We know sleep is fundamental to our health. It regulates mood, energy levels, and cognitive function. Without it, our health risks increase, and our abilities to concentrate and think creatively suffer. It takes a toll on our mental health, affects our school/job performance, and is just all around the worst. But you knew that – it’s why you’re here. You’re tired. And you know what? You’re not alone. Roughly 1 in 3 Americans aren’t getting enough quality sleep. So what can you do to increase your chances of getting the blissful sleep you need?

Consider the following 5 supplements. All are easily attained, and pure magic when it comes to the zzz’s.

DiScLaImEr: Consider speaking with your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements. If you’re on other medications, do your own research or check with your doctor before introducing new supplements/medications to avoid negative interactions.


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Okay, YES. CBD oil changed my life. When I was finishing my Ph.D., I was so unbelievably stressed and wired and overwhelmed that sleep became a 3-4 hour thing every other night. On top of that, I only managed to get to sleep at all by taking Melatonin + some OTC sleep aid like Unisom or Advil PM, all of which I hate because they’re no good for your health long term and make you groggy and tired the next day (but I figured, not as tired as not sleeping for 6 months). It was terrible, so please don’t try this at home. Let’s just smack a Surgeon General’s Warning on that life.

When a friend suggested CBD oil, I was all for it because I’m a goddess of the earth, so I’m always up for trying new natural remedies. She swore by it, and while I wasn’t convinced it would be enough to get me to sleep without the Unisom, I bought a bottle, and oh. my. gaaad. It was everything.

By taking one dropper an hour before bed, I fall asleep easily without being struck by overwhelming tiredness. I sleep through the night, the quality of sleep is amazing, and I always wake up feeling fresh. I don’t think anything has changed the way I sleep more than CBD oil.

I started out with 250 mg and took anywhere from half a dropper (0.5 mL) to a full dropper (1 mL). After a while, I upped to 500 mg, and that’s been working well. I buy from Sacred Leaf, either the CBD VG Tincture or CBG Oil. They have a variety of flavors, and you can drop it straight into your mouth or mix it into a drink. I’ve also bought from Bluebird Botanicals, which is another quality product and a bit cheaper than Sacred Leaf, but they don’t have all the tasty flavors.

**Update 07/12/2019: I’ve just had the brand cbdMD recommended to me by a local CBD tea line distributor in my area. I’ve done some research and checked reviews, and it’s definitely a quality product in a more affordable price range. I haven’t had a chance to try it myself yet, but I’ll post updates when I do.

The downside

High-quality CBD oil is pricey. You can find cheaper CBD products on Amazon, but they’ll almost certainly be diluted and less effective than the real stuff. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it. I’ve bought CBD oil on Amazon when money’s been tight, and it still did something. Basically, it was better than nothing.

Note: Before buying any CBD products (especially the ones on sites like Amazon), do your research. Make sure it’s a reputable product. Read the reviews. Do an external Google search about the company or seller. Make sure they list any additional ingredients. Read up on any ingredients you don’t recognize. Don’t get conned into buying a tiny bottle of mint-flavored olive oil for $25. Or worse, something potentially harmful.


5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, otherwise known as the “happiness hormone.” While there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of 5-HTP as a treatment for any condition, there have been some indications of its potential benefits in minimizing symptoms of depression & anxiety, migraines, insomnia, and even promoting weight loss. Because serotonin is converted into melatonin, 5-HTP is potentially useful as a sleep aid.

I take 5-HTP for both sleep and mood. If I’m having trouble getting tired or winding down, 5-HTP is my number one. Unlike CBD oil, it’ll hit you with that sleepiness and have you dropping off before you know it.

I buy NOW Foods 5-HTP capsules on Amazon, both in 50 mg and 100 mg. They can also be found at pretty much any health food store. I tend to stick with 50 mg for sleep, and only take 100 mg if I’m extra wired.

The downside

Take 5-HTP too late, and you’ll be sleepy the next day. Also, use it sparingly. Try not to take it too many days in a row because overly-elevated serotonin levels can lead to anxiety, agitation, and restlessness. If you develop any of these symptoms after taking 5-HTP, stop for at least a week. If symptoms persist, this could indicate Serotonin Syndrome (Toxicity), which is incredibly dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Speak to your doctor immediately.


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Magnesium is a natural mineral with a zillion benefits, so don’t be surprised if it pops up on every single post I write about health/mental health/well-being – especially, because 50% of Americans don’t consume the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR).

I take 200 mg of magnesium 3x daily (morning, midday, evening). It won’t induce sleepiness or put you straight to bed, but magnesium is essential for regulating neurotransmitters and melatonin, which will help calm your body and mind. So, if it’s racing thoughts keeping you up at night, magnesium might be just what you need to shut them down.

My go-to brand is Doctor’s Best High Absorption Magnesium, 100% Chelated. My morning dose comes in my multivitamin, which I customize on VitaminLab to include my preferred type (magnesium glycinate) and dosage (200mg).


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L-Theanine is an amino acid found in certain tea leaves and mushrooms. It promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness or a surge in energy, meaning you can take in the morning and/or night.

I use NOW Foods L-Theanine, 200 mg or Doctor’s Best L-Theanine with Suntheanine, 150 mg. I take it in the evening to help shake off the stress of the day. The effects are subtle – so subtle that sometimes I’ll think it’s not doing anything and stop taking it. That’s when I realize how effective it really is at taking the edge off.


Initially, I introduced inositol into my supplement regime after reading about its potential benefits for PCOS and ADHD. When I took my first ever dose, it was around 2 PM as I sat down to get some much-needed work done. Thirty minutes later I was like OH NICE, I can take this to go to sleep at night, and my work was done for the day.

Note: there is scientific evidence to suggest benefits of inositol supplementation for PCOS, but insufficient evidence that it has any effect on ADHD or insomnia. So again, do your own research, speak to your doctor, enroll in a master’s for holistic medicine – whatever you need to do – because all I can tell you on this one is my experience, and *spoiler* my experience isn’t backed by science (though sleep benefits of inositol aren’t disputed by science either). Anyway, my experience is that inositol brought on a noticeable cloud of drowsiness when I took it at 2 PM and has been a reliable sleep-aid for me ever since.

My method is to take two capsules of NOW Foods Choline & Inositol, 500 mg about an hour before I want to sleep. I take the inositol-choline combo because of evidence indicating choline can benefit asthma. If you have no need for choline, there are plenty of inositol-only capsules, including NOW Foods Inositol 500 mg.

The downside

The sleep-inducing effect of inositol isn’t as overt as the 5-HTP, but don’t be fooled. Take it too late, and there is a possibility you’ll feel some slight grogginess the next morning.


If you’re sleepy and you know it, shake your meds. Goodnight.

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