Thursday, August 28, 2014

Serum? (with drawings!)

When serums hit the market, all of us who were confidently following the old cleanse-tone-moisturize routine made popular by the Clean & Clear of our youth were thrown for a bit of a loop.

Suddenly serums were on every pharmacy shelf and beauty blog, and I was left scratching my head wondering what were they, when to use them and, was this the end of the road for moisturizer?

I’ve come up with an analogy for the two products, which helps you remember when and why to use them (spoiler alert, you need to use both) which hopefully is somewhat helpful, or at least good for a giggle at my drawings.

Imagine that your skin is going for a night out at the pub, except instead of getting hammered, your skin is hoping to repair itself in a classic case of nursing your problems at the local.

Serum is like a shot, it’s crazy concentrated and has the active ingredients only.

You take shots with the intention of putting maximum alcohol into your body, with minimum effort. Your skin uses serum to get maximum active effect to treat problem areas. For example, a serum might be designed to reduce scars and even skin-tone, work on fine lines and wrinkles, or even target acne. Popping a serum on your face first is the equivalent of taking a shot at the start of the night, it gets things off to a great start with a huge concentration of active ingredients.

After your shot, you want something less intense and enjoyable, like a mixed drink, or, in your skin’s case, a moisturizer.

The main purpose of a moisturizer is to hydrate, and protect your skin from the outside elements. A moisturizer can also contain active ingredients, but they’ll be mixed in with hydrating ingredients, so less intense, like a mixed drink. By popping a moisturizer on top of your serum, you build on the active ingredients already there, but also hydrate and protect your skin, so it feels lovely and soft.

In summary, your serum (shot) is the most potent ingredient, it goes straight on clean skin for maximum effect and you only need a tiny bit. As this is the most active element, if you’re going to spend money, spend it on a good serum. 

After your serum comes moisturizer (mixed drink) whose job is to hydrate. You can choose one with active ingredients in it, or a purely hydrating moisturizer. The active ingredients won’t be as potent, so if you’re on a budget it isn't worth spending as much as you would on a serum.  

Now, just in case you can’t get enough of my drawings, here’s the whole thing in a cute printable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Product Review- A'kin Cellular Radiance Serum

I'm really glad to be starting the review portion of this blog, and just in the nick of time too- as I'm about to run out of this product. The A'kin Cellular Radiance Serum was the first serum I purchased, when I decided to get serious about skincare. 

I actually intended to purchase a rosehip oil, as I'd never used a serum before, and I knew that was a holy-grail ingredient in natural skincare, that wouldn't be too pricy. 

Typically, once I walked in the door of the pharmacy, all my plans went out the window, and I became overwhelmed by the choices. Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to quality, organic or natural skincare lines. Did I want plain rosehip? Organic rosehip? Rosehip with antioxidants or straight up?

The A'kin product seemed like a good compromise- as a collection of all the ingredients the others touted, it boasts a whole raft of terrific active ingredients including
- Pomegranate extract
- Rosa Canina (rosehip) extract
- Chamomile extract
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A 
plus the mysterious Seabuckthorn extract, which I'm yet to research, but it's just the best word to say 'Seabuckthorn', 'Seabuckthorn'

I digress, back to the review.

Lots of badges on the packaging to let you know that the product is paraben and sulfate free, Australian owned, does not test on animals and is generally a good person to have around for dinner. Maybe I made the last bit up, but it's clear from the packaging that this product is ethically made, and contains high quality ingredients, which are organic where possible. There's no synthetic fragrance or other nasties so it's suitable for all skin types. 

The active ingredients above show that it's absolutely chock-full of antioxidants, which are the natural skincare power ingredients, they keep the baddies (free radicals) out, and help the goodies (your skin cells) repair faster and generate collagen.  

The product is packaged in a glass vial, which is quite typical of these types of natural serums. It also has that typically un-fragranced 'natural' smell, which I believe is mainly the rosehip oil smell . I don't mind it at all, although my boyfriend initially wasn't a huge fan. 

The bottle contains an eye-dropper for application which, to be honest I find a bit tricky. I tend to suck up a little too much product in the dropper, which is possibly why I've used this product relatively quickly (the bottle has lasted me around 3 months) 

Additionally, the product itself is quite thin, making it quite easy for it to fall from the dropper between your fingers, instead of on your fingertips for application. 

Having whinged about the thin consistency of this product, I'm actually going to also list it as a positive. The product is an oil, but is nice and thin and feels very non-greasy on the skin. This is possibly because it's free of synthetics and mineral oils, so everything sinks into your skin quickly, instead of sitting at the top. 

I quite liked the yellow-ish colour, as it gave me a faint glow. I particularly noticed this when I came back from my holiday with a tan which seemed to look much more prominent if I was wearing the serum. However, if you prefer not to have a gentle yellow glow, this may not be the product for you. 

I experienced absolutely no irritation or reaction to this product, which I was very pleased about, particularly as I took it on holiday with me, and used it on sensitive slightly sunburnt skin. 

Didn't notice any significant changes in my skin, apart from an overall look of 'healthiness' which I was very happy with, I think that to seriously fade scars or change pigmentation, non-natural prescription products are probably more appropriate. 

In a nutshell
Pros: Great antioxidant rich ingredients, ethically made, absorbs nicely into the skin
Cons: Slightly difficult packaging- particularly the eyedropper and thin consistency
Price:  $40 for 23mL
Purpose: Natural, hydrating oil-based serum, full of antioxidants. 
Packaging: Attractive, but somewhat tricky to control usage amount- glass jar and dropper.
Re- Purchase? Yes, a great all-rounder at a good price. 

Product Review- Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter


 The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter

In brief: A great starter balm
Pros: Moisturising, gentle on skin, removes standard makeup. 
Cons: Can't lift heavy eye makeup, doesn't foam/liquify very much. 
Price: A very reasonable $21.95 for 90ml
Purpose: Cleansing and makeup removal
Packaging: Good- easy to travel, lightweight. 
RePurchase:  In theory, yes, however I am now keen to compare to the more expensive alternatives. 

I'd heard a lot of good things about cleansing butters/balms, and was very interested in the concept of a hydrating way to remove makeup at the end of the day. That said, I was hesitant to shell out for one of the cult favourites (this or this) until I knew whether I liked the concept of a cleansing balm, so the Body Shop seemed like a good first step.

Packaging is nice and light, and fits easily within your palm, which makes it much easier to pack and travel with than the Clinique Balm. Only negative is that the labelling starts to pucker and move a little with exposure to water, which you can see is starting to happen at the corners of mine. 

I'll list full ingredients down the bottom of the post, but a few key ones
- No alcohols or mineral oils which is nice (I'll do a post on mineral oils soon)
- Whole range of natural cleansing oils, including shea butter which is a deeply moisturising product- can clog pores though. 
- Some fragrance, but it's far down on the list which means there's not so much of it and I haven't found it to be a problem or irritant. 

The fragrance itself is lovely and very subtle- I don't imagine anyone would find it unpleasant or overpowering. 

I've outlined my process in more detail within my routine post, but essentially, this is a very easy product to use. 

You can see in the photo below, it's a real 'balm' consistency- it sits as a solid form in the packet, but is a soft product, making it very easy to take a small amount off. I would say it's most similar in consistency to a solid lip balm- such as Burts Bees. 

On the skin, it sits like a moisturiser, until you add a bit of water and start to work in. It doesn't really form a lather, in fact I tried to take a photo of it on my face and scrapped it because you couldn't see anything.

I prefer a product with a bit more movement that goes quite milky on the face, as I feel it allows me to do a bit of facial massage to work product off, so the lack of lather was a drawback for me. 


I've really enjoyed using a cleansing balm, and now I have a strong preference to use this kind of nourishing cleanser at the end of the day.

I haven't yet experienced any breakouts, even though the product does contain Shea Butter which is a heavy moisturiser, I think if you wash it off properly though it should be fine. 

The women at the Body Shop told me that this is their go-to product for removing makeup, as it is non-irritant and great on all kinds of skin, and I'd certainly agree with that, haven't had any reactions to it and my skin feels very healthy. 

I found it too difficult to get heavy duty eye makeup off with this, so I needed to use a makeup remover on my eyes before cleansing with the balm. Aside from that, I found this product performed really well for daily cleansing, after rinsing it off, my face was very soft and moisturised. 

Give it a go if

You're keen to try a balm and haven't used one before, it's a terrific first balm to get to know this kind of product, and at a great price. 

Ethylhexyl Palmitate (Skin Conditioning Agent), Synthetic Wax (Binder/Emollient), PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate (Skin Conditioning Agent), Olea Europaea Fruit Oil/Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil (Emollient), Butyrospermum Parkii Butter/Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (Skin Conditioning Agent - Emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (Skin Conditioning Agent), Tocopherol (Antioxidant), Parfum/Fragrance (Fragrance), Aqua/Water (Solvent/Diluent), Linalool (Fragrance Ingredient), Limonene (Fragrance Ingredient), Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil/Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (Emollient), Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract (Natural Additive), Citric Acid (pH Adjuster).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Daily Routine (Clean, Treat, Moisturise)

Before I get into some serious product reviews, I'm going to quickly run through my routine. I won't list any specific products here- just the basic steps and what kind of product I use when.

When I was researching routines I initially got quite confused about which order to use products in.

I had a breakthrough when I realised I could group products into 3 categories- clean, treat, moisturise. 

By sticking to that classification and that order, I've managed to bring in a range of new products, and stay on top of when to use them based on whether they clean, treat or moisturise.

To make this blog easier to read, I'll be splitting all skincare products into those three categories. I find it's easier to both stick to a routine, and also to know when to buy of something if you think in terms of categories, not individual products. I've got a slightly different routine for morning and evening, so will list both with the help of some cute Disney gifs.


1. Clean 
- Headband on, and make sure I've got a clean cloth ready
- Run the water quickly to make sure it's hot to touch, but not so hot I can't put my hand underneath it
- Massage a very gentle cleanser onto dry skin, then dip my fingertips back in the water, so I can create a bit more of a lather* in my massage.
- Run my cloth under hot water, and wring it out, place it over my face and let the steam soak in for a quick moment, before gently wiping the cleanser off. I usually repeat this step twice or three times, mainly because I love the feeling of a hot cloth on my face.

2. Treat
- I quickly spritz with what used to be known as toner but is really a hydrating mist, this step is mainly for the nice smell and refreshing feeling.

- Serum- I tend to use a cheaper serum that's more hydrating and general antioxidants than targeted treatment, mainly because I assume it will cop a bit of wear-and-tear during the day, and not have as much chance to be effective.

3. Moisturise
- I like to layer a light moisturiser, and then an SPF product (if it's sunny).

I think moisturisers with SPF do neither job particularly well. They'll often only contain a low level SPF (usually15) but then they don't moisturise as well either, because the main ingredients are SPF related. Also, because my skin can be a bit sensitive, I like to put a layer of moisturiser between skin and SPF so I'll use separate products for each.

After this I'll layer makeup, or head out as is. 


1. Clean 
- Remove any heavy eye makeup- I soak two round cotton pads in eye makeup remover and place them on my eyes. Leave them there, applying a bit of pressure for a minute or two, then gently wipe off. The idea is that there's no rubbing or excessive wiping on the gentle skin around your eyes. If I'm wearing very bold lipstick I'll also wipe a pad with remover along my lips.

Note: This is just a first step to get major gunk off, and stop black lines or lipstick going on my wash-cloths. Not all the makeup needs to come off at this stage, just the most heavy duty layer.

If no makeup, or just standard, daily makeup- start clean here. 
- Cleansing balm- a deeper, more moisturising clean that the cleansing liquid I use in the morning, again I start on dry skin, then slowly incorporate wet fingertips so I can do a little massage and lift of all the grime, SPF and makeup from the day.
- Take balm off using hot cloth technique.

- Second cleanse- using cleanser. I only do this step if I've been wearing makeup or SPF, as a final step to get every last particle off my face. I use a face cloth to take it off in the same way.

- 2-3 times per week I exfoliate using acid based exfoliant pads, to make sure all my dead skin cells are cleared off, and my skin is replenishing nicely.

2. Treat
- Firstly I gently dot an eye cream around my eyes, as if I don't do it now, my eyes will soak in the serum and general moisturisers instead, and any eye-cream I apply will be wasted.

- Serum- here I can get a bit more heavy duty. I tend to rotate through depending on my skin concern. Typically in my basket I'll have a general mid-range antioxidant serum, a moisturising oil-based serum and some kind of treatment serum (my treatment focus at the moment is to even skin tone, but more on that later) and choose based on my skin condition.

- I'll also apply any pimple treatment products at this stage if necessary (on clean, dry skin, under the serum).

3. Moisturise
- I'll usually rotate through a stronger, anti-aging moisturiser, and a more general hydrating night cream which I massage into my face, and down my neck and decolletage.

-Some kind of moisturising lip treatment from the stash by my bed

And then it's goodnight, sweet, product scented dreams. 

*when I say lather I don't mean foam- nothing natural foams or bubbles too much, if you're getting that result you're using something with mad amounts of chemicals, which are doing more harm than good. Here I'm only referring to a sort of milky feeling with a few small bubbles. 

(Disney gif source)

3 Small Changes

Glad we've got all the admin over and I can get into some product lovings. To start with, three really simple things that I've changed about my routine recently. They're deceptively simple, for the effect they've had on my skin. I'll run through them quickly, and give details about specific products at the bottom of this post.

1. Got Organised
I was getting sick of knocking over my products stacked on my sink, but I never used them if they were in my cabinet. Firstly I bought a basket and filled it with all my daily products. I added a headband because I'm extremely lazy and some face washers. There's nothing like a basket of clean white face cloths to make your bathroom feel a bit more like a hotel room!

 I treated myself to a cheerful little dish for small things that get lost- hair ties, tweezers, contact lenses, samples, then put all my cotton products in a glass jar. The only thing left on the bench is my cleanser because it's just massive.

Now whenever I get out of bed they're looking at me, well presented, organised, ready to go which means no excuses.

2. Stopped washing my face in the shower
I've got to credit Caroline Hirons for this, she's absolutely right. The shower water is far too hot (especially in winter) to be putting your face under, plus there's all sorts of shampoos and other products going on in there, not to mention the hard water pressure I'm fond of.

Face wash is now a separate step for me, twice a day, regardless of when I shower.

3. Less is more
Previously I'd use a lot, a lot of product, I subscribed to the some is good-more is better theory, plus my skin was quite dehydrated, so whatever went on was instantly sucked up.

Pea sized
Firstly, pay attention when you pump. Ideally you want a pea-sized amount of serum, and a 20 cent coin of moisturiser. Remember, you can always get a little more, so it pays to be mindful instead of splooshing product out with gay abandon.

Kind of a 20cent coin, if you squint. 

Secondly, layer your products on a slightly damp face, it will allow them to go further and give you a bit more to work with as you're massaging them, then you'll naturally begin to use less product.

So that's my three, get organised, external face wash and use less product. Might seem like a fairly inauspicious way to start blogging, but they've been extremely useful little gems, which is what I'm all about here at Spackle.

 Product round up
- Basket about $10 from Howard's Storage World- I can't see the exact one on the website, but they have a great range. 
- I'll do a daily routines post outlining all these products and the order I use them in soon
- I bought a white 'facial headband' from eBay because I wanted one with velcro, but anything will do
- I've got a combination of soft bamboo cloths (also eBay) and these ones from Mecca which have a bit more grunt, most importantly I bought heaps so I'm not inclined to use grotty old ones.  
- I'm wearing Tom Ford nail-polish in Ginger Fire- it's about three days old but has worn pretty well. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

That awkward question.... (cash money)

It's always the way, you're reading about some terrific new product, reviewed by a lovely blogger, it sounds terrific, and you're just about to open your wallet and achieve the skin of your dreams when...

You want me to spend HOW much on a cleanser?


I've been there, and so, to avoid awkwardness let's talk money.

Unlike your shoes, sixpack or handbag, skin is always visible, particularly to you, and there is something quite lovely about waking up, looking in the mirror and not wincing.

HOWEVER, unlike the lovely Liz Lemon, I'm not dancing under cash, or washing my face with it.

Which means that, if I spend too much on the one product, I just won't use it.

Instead, I'll walk past it and dream of the day when I can use it. Christmas? My birthday? My wedding day? (by which time it will likely be way past use-by)

As a result of my research, I've started to group my skincare into three categories.  I'll be referring to these categories as I blog, hopefully offering options for each level. You can easily access products in a particular group by clicking on the tags at the top of the page.

Save <$30 These are pharmacy favourites, impulse buys, staples. The kind of thing you can pick up on special and use every day, guilt free, or turf if it's not working for you.

Mid-Range- $30-70 More pricy, these guys can be used daily, but you'll need them to be justifying their price and doing some serious heavy lifting, I'll be putting in some research before buying a Mid-Ranger.

Splurge >$70 This is birthday present stuff, if I splurge on something, I've got to absolutely need-it-can't-live-without-it. Serious research and window shopping will occur before a splurge is made, but sometimes, it's absolutely worth it.


That's all very interesting, but when should I splurge and when should I save?

I've got a bit of an analogy for what I expect from my skincare.

When I was younger, we used to travel a lot, and wherever we went, my mum would always order the most ambitious thing on the menu. Undoubtedly she'd be disappointed. Meanwhile, my brother had a knack for ordering well, because he didn't expect too much

He once told her, the problem, when he was eating a delicious steak and she was battling with some kind of seafood risotto/glue. She expected too much. We were in a pub, a very long way from the ocean, she should have gone with pub food.

I feel the same way about budget skincare.

If you're not paying much, don't expect too much.

I'll go budget when I'm looking for a great cleanser, moisturiser or a really decent daily SPF. That's a pretty basic requirement, clean gunk off my skin, keep hydrated. I'm happy that a good budget buy can do the job (so long as I read the ingredients etc etc)

It is very hard to find a product that will do heavy-lifting and is also cheap, for example, you're not going to be able to fade scars or deal with complex skin issues on the cheap. These things are quite expensive to research, which can translate to pricier products, for that reason I'm happy to splash out on serums or treatments.

Occasionally there is a miraculous cheap product, but it's a gamble, and just like my mum at the pub, you might be stuck with a dud.

So, if you're still with me after all that, here's the summary. Know what you want your skincare to do, and how much you think that costs, then purchase accordingly.

Does that make sense?