Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 Skincare Favorites: My Most Used Products for Normal to Dry Skin Types

2016 Skincare Favorites

I wasn't always a skincare type of person. With the exception of being ultra sensitive to the sun, I was fortunate in that I never really had any problems with my skin. I liked the idea of starting to take precautions against aging fairly early on but never put much effort into fostering a solid routine...not until I was in my late 20s that is. A job I picked up over one holiday season turned into a worthwhile position with the french luxury line Clarins. At the time (and still to this day), I was much more of a makeup junkie. I was a bit reluctant about my new role but was eager to learn as much as possible. I was excited to go through training and learn the exemplary techniques that Clarins skincare specialists use in their Parisian spas. Application is key, ladies and gentleman. Always gently pat and press your product into the skin; never pull, rub or tug!

While I was never enthralled with skincare products in the same way that a makeup palette can make my eyes light up, I was grateful for being placed in that role. If it weren't for that fateful alignment, I might have never bothered to put such a valiant effort into the care of my skin. With trial and error and a little bit of diligence, I have transformed my skin from very dry and dehydrated to balanced and normal. I'm proud to say that my skin is one of the things I get complimented on the most (I will be 31 soon but am frequently asked if I am in college). I take pride in keeping my skin looking the best I possibly can and am curious to see how the measures I take today will reveal itself in the years to come.

While every one has different skincare concerns and requirements, these are all products that I highly recommend. What works for one person doesn't always do the same for another, so precede with caution. Always ask for complimentary samples before delving into a new regimen. Save your money and try before you buy! And don't attempt to experiment with more than one product at a time; this will ensure that you can formulate an honest critique of whether something is working for you. Now, on to the products!


Dove Moisture Beauty Bar Soap, $5

Most skincare snobs will tell you to never let a bar of soap touch your face. I'm glad I never listened to that advice because this moisture beauty bar transformed my skin. It's the most delicate of cleansers and easy to use in the shower. It instantly clears any blemishes and balances the skin. Best yet? It's very affordable! My only concern is the 3/4 version has been MIA from the market. I've used it for years and can't speak highly enough to its performance. I'm not sure if Dove changed the formula or its offerings. Anyone out there have an answer for me?

Bioderma, $17

Bioderma is a cult beauty favorite for a reason. It is one of the best products I have ever used. If you're American, there was a time not long ago when you had to know someone in Europe or pick this up while traveling in order to procure its presence in your arsenal. I vividly remember when I went to France a few years ago and asking the girls in my group if we could stop at a Pharmacy so I could bring back this miracle in a bottle. Fortunately for those of us who are stateside, you can now easily get Bioderma through Beautylish for a very reasonable price. I use Bioderma to cleanse my skin, take off my makeup, prep it for further product and refresh in the morning. It is a dream come true for those of us who have dry, sensitive skin. It has more or less replaced every makeup remover I have in that it does a tremendous job at gently sweeping away product without leaving behind a filmy residue. If you have yet to try Bioderma, I can not recommend it highly enough. I love micellar water in general, and there have been many wonderful releases, but nothing stands close to the original.

Shiseido Facial Cotton, $10

A bit on the pricey side but worth every penny! I use the Shiseido cotton daily along with my Bioderma and softener. For those who use liquid makeup remover, this cotton is also fantastic. I also use it to take off my nail polish if I'm feeling fancy. You can even saturate a pad to use for pampering. It's the softest cotton on the market and does not shred. If you have sensitive eyes and skin, there's nothing worse than cotton particles interrupting your regimen. If you haven't done so already, give this a try during a Sephora VIB sale or use reward points (I love Plenti) to cut back on the cost. It makes such a difference.


Bobbi Brown Buffing Grains for Face, $44

Because my skin is a bit sensitive when it comes to harsh exfoliators, it was semi challenging to find one that does the job effectively without irritation. These grains are on the pricey side but a little goes a long way. I usually only exfoliate my skin as needed (on average, once every week or so). This product is unique in that you can use it on its own with warm water or as it's designed to be mixed in with your favorite foaming cleanser. I have paired it with my Dove beauty bar as well as traditional cleansers from Clarins and have yet to experience a bad reaction. Tip: Even though the sand grains are soft, be extra gentle when massaging the product into your skin, cautious to avoid the eye area.

Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner, $39

My skin tends to lean on the dryer side of normal so I don't reach for this product very often. But during the warmer, more humid parts of the year or during "that time of the month" when my skin is experiencing additional oil production, I apply this mostly to my T-zone with a Shiseido cotton pad. It does a good job at removing dead skin cells and adding brightness. Tip: Because this toner contains salicylic acid, be careful not to expose your skin to the sun while using this product.


Shiseido Benefiance Balancing Softener Enriched, $45-$73

This softener has been one of my favorite products for several years. It transformed my skin. Because I lean dry, toners just aren't my thing. They usually do more harm than good. If you're in the same boat, I can't recommend a softener highly enough. It is the perfect addition to your regimen. After cleansing, I saturate a cotton pad with this softener and apply it on my face, neck, decollete and even hands. It works to balance the pH levels in your skin while hydrating and prepping it for further product. It increases the performance of serums and moisturizers and works like a dream. I can't be without this phenomenal product! If you are dry, definitely go for the enriched version (which costs the same as the regular formula). If you are normal to combination, the regular softener should work nicely for you. If you're oily, definitely stick to a traditional toner.


Lancome Advanced Genefique Serum, $78-$175

I call this wondrous potion my super serum. It's excellent for using in partnership with a stronger serum. The texture is fast absorbing and feels wonderful on the skin. It's fantastic for all skin types and works to increase radiance and prevent fine lines and wrinkles.

Clarins Double Serum, $89-$119

I wasn't always a fan of this serum but as I've gotten a bit older, I've really grown to appreciate its potency. A very rich formula, I recommend this for combination, dry and mature skin types. I like to use it every other night. The scent is delicate but pleasant. It helps to boost the power of my moisturizer and works to battle wrinkles and enlarged pores.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair, $65-$95

I have a slight love-hate relationship with this serum. I don't particularly favor the scent or the consistency (it's rather sticky) and my dropper never seems to smoothly release the product. But it works. I use it at night in rotation between the Clarins Double Serum. Results include plumper skin with less fine lines and wrinkles. I adore the shape and color of the bottle. It feels like something you would find in an apothecary shoppe.


Shiseido Future Solution LX Night Regenerating Cream, $260

This is one of my favorite night creams for providing saturated hydration and anti-aging properties. While the astronomical price is a tough pill to swallow, I am fortunate to get an insider discount on the line and am cautious to only purchase it around the holiday season when there are value sets and bonus gifts offered. It's an investment in the future of my skin as this product definitely helps to nourish and protect from the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. If I slack on using this product, I start to see the difference and conversely, when I reintroduce it into my regimen I see instant results.

Shiseido Future Solution Total Revitalizing Cream, $230

I have been using this cream in rotation for the past couple years and finally finished the container. It was my introduction into high-end moisturizers and what a foray it turned out to be. This is a very rich cream so I only recommend it for those with dry and/or mature skin. It's phenomenal at adding a boost of hydration and plumpness to the skin. If you go to sleep with this moisturizer on, you will awake with better looking skin. I'd love to be able to afford another jar to put into rotation with the other Shiseido Future Solution cream but as of right now, that's not in my budget. Tip: Prioritize what is most important to your beauty routine. I never pay to get my nails or waxing done. The money that I save on services like this allows for me to allocate those resources to my skincare products.

Shiseido Bio-Performance Advanced Super Revitalizing Cream, $75-$95

If the Future Solution Line does not fit into what you would like to spend on a night cream or feel that it is too concentrated, I highly recommend this Bio-Performance cream. It's very similar in texture to the Future Solution line but much easier to wear. It's light enough that it can even be used during the day for those who need the extra hydration. I rotate this cream with the others mentioned and find them to produce somewhat similar results at maintaining a youthful appearance.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream Extra-Dry Skin, $17

Because I go so hard with my nighttime skincare routine, I usually find by morning that my face needs minimal attention. I can usually skip an AM moisturizer but when I wear makeup, I always like to prep my skin with a fast-absorbing gel-cream formula. There are a few products on the market that I like but one that stands out the most is this one from Neutrogena. It instantly hydrates and plumps the skin while creating a wonderful base for your makeup. When it comes to the drug store, Neutrogena really hits it out of the park with so many of their bath and body products. I can't recommend their line highly enough.

Clarins Extra-Firming Advanced Neck Cream, $89

This might sound preposterous to some but a solid neck cream is critical in your skincare routine. When I was in my late 20s, I started to notice a few lines deepening on my neck that appeared to have formed from looking down at my phone and sleeping on my side. I quickly realized that the delicate neck area is one of the first places that shows your age. Anything that you use on your face, you should be carrying down to your neck and chest. But when it comes to a moisturizer, the neck's surface requires special attention. I've found that my own responds extremely well to the Clarins neck cream. It absorbs quickly and you see and feel results instantly. The price is painful but the results are phenomenal. In the few years that I have been using this product, those lines have dramatically faded and I notice firmer skin.

Eye Care:

Shiseido Ultimune Eye Power Infusing Eye Concentrate, $67

Using a serum before a moisturizer helps to boost the potency of your products by allowing the ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin. This goes for the eye area as well. I didn't care for the Ultimiune face serum but the eye concentrate is pretty good. Shiseido scientists spent a lot of time and resources developing this line of products with Harvard researchers and the results I have seen are worthy of a mention.

Clarins Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate, $85

This is one of the best eye creams I have ever used. It's light enough to wear during the day under makeup but it's also effective enough to use as a night treatment. It's very hydrating, fast absorbing and helps to reduce dark circles, puffiness and fine lines and wrinkles. I have sensitive eyes and wear contacts but have yet to experience any irritation. Tip: Always gently press the product into the skin as opposed to rubbing. I am liberal with where I apply my eye cream. Rather than just patting the cream under the eyes, I also put the product on the entirety of my lid up to the brow bone. In addition to this, I also apply to the areas where I have dubbed "the mask of Zorro". I apply eye cream to the space above my eye brows, in between where 11's form, and around the contour where crow's feet develop. Many people use their moisturizer as their eye cream but you should really be using a separate cream. The skin surrounding the eye area is different than the rest of the face and requires special attention. A heavy night cream or even a lighter day moisturizer will be too richly saturated and cause swelling and puffiness.

Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream, $52

I love using this eye cream during the day underneath my makeup. Similar to the Clarins (and much less expensive), it is fast absorbing and hydrating. I don't necessarily see this as tremendous for correcting fine lines and wrinkles but its hydration properties are definitely helpful. You can always rely on Bobbi Brown's skincare products to work cohesively with makeup.

Bobbi Brown Extra Eye Repair Cream, $74

This eye cream is thicker in consistency and works best at night as a treatment. Some people like to use it during the day but I prefer not to have a heavy eye cream under my eyeshadows even if it's fast-absorbing. When applied at night, you will notice in the morning a firmer, more lifted appearance to the lids.

Shiseido Future Solution LX Eye and Lip Contour Regenerating Cream, $130

Speaking of heavy eye creams, this is one of the thickest I have ever tried. I use it once or twice a week at night when I want to have extra treatment for my eyes. It's wonderful at correcting fine lines and wrinkles and preventing new ones from forming. It can also be used around the mouth to correct any lines that may have emerged in that area. While it is an expensive product, the deluxe sample that I received from my Future Solution holiday value set has lasted me a very long time.

Hand Care:

Etude House Pink Vital Water Serum, $20

As mentioned above, serums are very helpful in boosting the performance of your creams. Hands are no exception. In the latter half of the year, I decided to use this serum from Etude House on my hands and chest area as it's lightweight and affordable. It's not at all sticky and absorbs quickly into the skin. It's also good as a hydrating daytime serum for the face.

Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream, $30

I've never been a fan of using hand creams. I find that they're usually sticky or take too long to dry. The Clarins hand cream is a wonderful exception. It's on the thicker side without being too heavy. Despite its somewhat rich consistency, it absorbs very fast. It works to improve hydration and diminish the appearance of aging. I also like to use it on my nails and cuticles. The scent isn't for everyone but it's one that I've actually grown to appreciate as I now associate the botanical fragrance with being effective at healing my skin.

Lip Products:

Clarins Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil in Honey, $26

I touched on this product in my previous 'best of' beauty post but felt compelled to include it on this list as well. It definitely falls in line with both a makeup and a skincare item. It's phenomenal!

Clarins Moisture Replenishing Lip Balm, $24

The same can be said for this fantastic balm. To read a bit more on what I think of it, please be sure to check out my previous post.

Pangea Organics Italian Red Mandarin with Rose Lip Balm, $14

I discovered this indie brand several years ago through a Birchbox. It is one of my favorite lip balms of all time. It is silky smooth, hydrating and fairly long lasting. The ingredients are good for your lips, the scent is pleasant and the pricing is pretty good. It's harder to find than most products but as of the time this post was written, you can purchase it through Amazon which I have linked above.

Chanel Hyra Beauty Nourishing Lip Care, $50

If the price doesn't send you running for the hills, this is an excellent luxury lip balm. Because of its packaging, for sanitary purposes and convenience, I tend to only use it before bed when I am in the comfort of my own home and have easy access to a tissue. I've never been a fan of having to dip my fingers into a potted lip product but this formula is wonderful for healing dryness. You get a good amount of product (.35 oz) and a little goes a long way. One container, with off and on usage, has lasted me a couple years. When I finish this product, I plan to repurpose and fill the elegant packaging with one of my more affordable lip balms. Keeping it real. Keeping it bougie.


Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream All-Over Miracle Oil, $28

I've been a fan of body and hair oils for years but there's something about putting oil on my face that is only now catching on with me. When I first bought this multipurpose oil, I resorted to mainly using it on my hair and body. The scent is relaxing and very pleasing to the senses. It was not until recently that I became brave enough to apply a bit of this oil on my face (usually when I'm feeling dryer than normal). It's also wonderful to add a few drops in with your nighttime moisturizer. It leaves the skin, hair and body feeling soft and supple. I love that it has a spritz dispenser and isn't in glass packaging. You get a good amount of product for your money and a little goes a long way (3.4 fl oz). I highly recommend trying this out-- if only for the scent!

Evian Mineral Water Spray Duo, $15

This has been a favorite of mine for years. Mineral water in a can, perhaps. But I love it for so many different purposes. I keep it near my bed so I can spritz myself in the morning on days when I'm not in the mood to get out of bed. Who needs to splash water on your face at the bathroom sink when there's an Evian bottle right next to you? I wish I was kidding but I'm fully serious. I love it as a refresher during the day or while I'm traveling. It's excellent in the winter to relieve dry skin and in the summer to cool you down. It's wonderful to prep your skin before makeup or to cancel out any excess powder. I can't tell you how often this product comes in handy. I definitely recommend purchasing the smaller size so you can toss one in your purse or carry-on bag (I won't go on a plane without mine).

Etude House My Lash Serum, $5

As far as I am concerned, this is the best kept secret in lash and brow serums! If you've ever shopped around for one, you'll quickly realize that they are all extremely overpriced. $100 is the norm for a tiny tube. I have tried these products and they are good but not worth the money. I gave My Lash a try on a whim and I'm so glad that I did. I was so impressed and pleasantly surprised with my results! I use this product every night during my skincare routine on my lashes and brows. I noticed after only a week or so that my hairs were softer, shinier and longer. While it takes about a week to truly see the benefits, you will feel the results the next morning. You can not find another product on the market that does what this does for such a low price! I have repurchased several times over as I apply a generous amount and go through the tube rather quickly. Do I recommend you buy one? No. Buy 5 of them! 

Etude House Sheet Masks, $1

I couldn't include a best of skincare list without mentioning my favorite sheet masks! Also from Etude House, these marvelous wonders are both extremely affordable and effective. There's a mask for every concern. Etude House has excellent price points but you can almost always apply a discount code to get their products for even less. I have experimented with several of their offerings but have never had a negative reaction to their ingredients. You could tell me that these masks would do nothing for my skin but I would still continue to repurchase them as they're so relaxing to apply on the skin. I love spending an evening or two a week listening to soft music, a meditation or a podcast with one of these masks on. You can not beat the quality for the price. Korean beauty products are once again among my favorites of the year for their playfulness, affordability and high quality. And because I haven't said it enough already in this blog post...I highly recommend!

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
I'm living life in beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I hold a journalism degree from West Virginia University. I have worked in television news, fashion marketing, PR, and cosmetic sales. My love for writing and sharing with the world my various passions is strong. One of my many ambitions is to be published and continue creating in the fields of digital and print media, literature and film. In my free time, I enjoy listening to music, going to concerts, reading, following Pittsburgh sports and traveling as often as possible. Some of my favorite things include beauty, style, architecture, books, tarot and astrology, thrifting and my shih-tzu, Ireland. I’m engaged to the love of my lifetimes and we look forward to starting our next chapter together. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you!