A Closer Look: Setting Powders

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When using a liquid or cream foundation you're going to want to set the foundation with a setting powder to create that flawless, seamless look. Setting powders absorb excess moisture and oils and prevents the makeup from creasing or caking throughout the day. I find that setting powders are great for normal to oily skin. If your skin is very dry, adding a setting powder over your foundation may dry out your skin further. For those with very dry skin, skip this step and go for a liquid to powder foundation.

Setting powders come in a pressed compact or as a loose powder. Normally they are white in colour and go on transparent or they can be slightly tinted to a flesh tone. Either way, a good setting powder will be fine enough and soft enough to be absorbed into your skin and fill in the pores, giving a smooth look with no residual powder left over. I've tried a few setting powders and at some point you start to think that they are all the same. And that got me thinking, are they the same? What goes into these products? I did some research, I looked at my most commonly purchased products, shown below, and quickly broke down the main ingredients in all of them. You'll see that many of these ingredients are common to most of them.

Clockwise from the top:

Make Up Forever Super Matte Loose Powder Ingredients: Talc, Silica, Nylon-12, Silk Powder, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Dehydroacetic Acid. May Contain: Iron Oxides, Mica, Red 27 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 10 Lake, Red 7 Lake, Red 21 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Ultramarines, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Red 6, Manganese Violet, Chromium Oxide Greens, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Slica, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Tin Oxide.

Joe Fresh Translucent Loose Powder Ingredients: Talc, Silica, Phenoxyethanol, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides

NYX HD Studio Photogenic Finishing Powder Ingredients: Silica 

Tarte Smooth Operator Ingredients: Amazonian Clay, Silica, Talc, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Phenoxyethanol, Dimethicone, Kaolin.

Silica or Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), a natural mineral found in sand, clay and granite. It's very versatile in the makeup world, typically used to bulk up products. It is also anticaking, prevents products from clumping and it's very good at absorbing oils and moisture.

Talc or Talcum Powder (Magnesium Silicate), is used to absorb moisture, a bulking agent, and anticaking. Talc has become controversial over the years because in its natural form, talc is known to contain asbestos - a carcinogen. So when talcum powder is processed, they are manufactured "asbestos-free" for things like cosmetic use, but there is always that risk. Actually, a few years ago, CoverFX reformulated their products and completely eliminated talc from their entire line, replacing it with Mica. However, you still see talc in many cosmetic products today.

Mica or Sheet Silicates - Micas are a group of silicates that are physically and chemically similar, forming sheet layers. It is used as colour additives in makeup, and has reflective properties to give that shimmering effect in mineral foundation. It is also used as a bulking agent and is also good at absorbing moisture and oils. Working with mica poses a high risk of exposure through inhalation. I should mention that inhaling any fine particle poses a risk to your respiratory health.

Amazonian Clay or Aluminum Silicate. An ingredient used in all of Tarte cosmetics. Amazonian clay is collected from the banks of the river basin in the Amazon. The clay is collected through a selective process to maintain and preserve the environment and its natural resources. The clay is dried and then shaved into a fine powder which is directly used to bulk up Tarte cosmetics. Like the other silicates, it absorbs moisture and oil to mattify the skin, but this source of clay contains many natural nutrients that also promises to nourish and help improve the overall quality of skin.

Titanium Dioxide (TiO2), a natural mineral used as a colouring agent, a whitener/lightener, and also used as a UV blocker. This is a very common ingredient in sunscreen or sunblock. Titanium Dioxide is normally coated in silica and alumina what in sunscreen because they can be absorbed into the skin, which can then photo catalyze the production of free radicals (highly reactive compounds) that damage DNA (which then defeats the purpose of a UV blocker).

Phenoxyethanol - a preservative to minimize bacterial growth in cosmetics. Also a stabilizer in soaps and perfumes. May cause an allergic reaction, from eczema to hives.

Overall, each of the products mentioned perform similarly, they absorb oils, mattifies the skin, and gives your face that smoothed over look. However, I'm going to have to single out NYX's setting powder, I am not a fan. This is purely silica, and doesn't blend or absorb into the skin as well as the others and it leaves a white cast on my light-medium skin tone.  I can only assume that the powder is not as soft, and being harsher, it doesn't melt into the skin as well or as quickly. If you want a drug store brand, I by far prefer Joe Fresh's setting powder. Last thing, if talc is a concern for you, try CoverFX's setting powder, which I have also used, but isn't pictured.

I hope this was informative for you guys. I wanted to learn more about what goes into a product and therefore, I am sharing with you what I learnt. All the ingredients can be found on the Sephora website or on the packaging of your product. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments below.

For more information, I will link my sources below in order as the information appears:

Until next time!

Brow Tinting

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Brow tinting is essentially dying your eyebrows to darken the colour. It isn't a new thing but I've just been introduced to it thanks to my Instagram feed (follow me @kernh, shameless detour). I have pretty light eyebrows, typical for an asian, so I was completely intrigued. I found a place in the heart of downtown Toronto, Mync Beauty. They do brow tinting, and numerous other beauty services . Mync Beauty has three locations, I went to the one on Queen St. West. I didn't do very much research on the place, which is unusual for me, but it received a lot of positive press, from the Marilyn Denis to Hello! Canada. I was pretty excited to try it out, so I went in head first and told myself I'll worry about the consequences after! (that's a terrible philosophy to live by..)

Having said that, I was super worried that it was going to turn out terribly. I invited my friend Tiffany, who was brave enough to come and try brow tinting with me. It didn't help me that Tiffany kept joking about potentially coming out with sharpie eyebrows! Although, we'd look hilarious, it's not quite the look I wanted.

Thankfully, we had a wonderful aesthetician, Ashley, who reassured me that wouldn't happen. The process is gradual, and the depth of the colour is built over several applications of the brow dye. Ashley chose a colour that would match our hair colour and started by removing any brow product and applied a layer of dye on the brows. The dye is a gel concentrated with the brow pigment - similar to regular hair dye, but I assume less harsh since it's going on your face, which is thinner and more sensitive that the rest of your skin. The gel is only on for about a minute and is then removed. The colour shows pretty much instantly, and if you want the brows to be darker, another layer is applied. I did it three times, and Ashley concentrated the colour towards the ends of my brows where it's the lightest, and where I wanted to really show. After that, I had also requested to do their "highbrow" service, where they clean up your brows and shape them if needed. For me, I asked for the stray hairs to be cleaned up and a have them trimmed. I have never had anyone do my eyebrows before, I was a bit skeptical, but she did a great job, and I like the way she tweezed my brows. Below are the progress photos:

What my brows looks like before and not filled in.

Brow gel on!

Marking out where to tweeze (outside the lines)!

The next day - what my brows look like after three applications of brow dye, and tweezing. Even though my hairs are sparse, I can see the difference in the ends of my brows.

My brows fully filled in by me!

My brows are quite sparse to begin with, so I wasn't expecting them to be thick and dark afterwards (although if there is a process for that, sign me up! Let's be clear, not sharpie eyebrows). But even so, my brows are darker and a lot more defined. Tiffany's brows came out especially well! She has fuller brows than I do, so the brow product took to her hairs better, and really became more defined. She really didn't have to fill them in afterwards either!

The dye lasts for a couple of weeks depending on your skin care routine, for example, how often your cleanse or exfoliate. For me, I don't think the colour will last more than two weeks, considering I do have an extensive skin care routine, which I've posted about before.

The Brow Tinting is $20, and the Highbrow is an extra $16 if done together, it's $23 alone, but if it's your birthday month, like it is mine, then Highbrow is free.

All and all I had a good time! Thank you to Mync Beauty for taking care of Tiffany and I. If you want to learn more about Mync Beauty, please visit their website, here.

If you've done brow tinting before, I'd like to know about your experience! Or if you have any more questions about it, please ask below.

Until next time,
xo, Karen

Katy Perry x Covergirl Part 2

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Last time I told you guys all about Katy Perry's Demi Matte lipsticks, which I absolutely love. Walmart has the whole collection currently, so I finally found "Perry Panther", her black lipstick and I also picked up her Kate Kat Eye waterproof mascara. So I thought I'd give you a little update on those!

The black lipstick, adorably named Perry Panther, is definitely a different look for me but I've received a lot of compliments. The first coat I put on is sheer, but the colour is buildable to give you that solid black lip. You will need a lipliner for this colour because it is so dark, it easily bleeds and will smear. I don't suggest grabbing your pencil black eyeliners. They may be safe for your skin, but not on your lips, because it can be potentially toxic if ingested. If you can't find a black lipliner, a nude colour close to you lip colour should do or a concealer pencil that you can line just outside the lips to create a lipstick barrier.

Katy Perry has branched out to mascaras and recently released the Katy Kat Eye mascaras to give you the perfect cat eye look. I picked up the very black waterproof one but there is a blue mascara if you're adventurous! So I don't know if it's a mistake on the packaging but the brush on it looks like a full bristled brush that tapers to a point, but actually the brush looks like a spiral (see above). I tried to capture the brush as accurately as possible. Either way it doesn't bother me, the brush works fine. Other than that the product is true to the packaging. It is very black and very waterproof. The mascara definitely lengthens my shorter asian lashes and really adds volume to them (see below for before and after). It looks especially good with eyeliner. And it holds my lash curl all day!

I put on only a few coats of the mascara. You can definitely keep layering to get that desired length and build.

Some things to note, the product goes on heavy on the brush when you use it for the first time and clumps up. I suspect because it is a new mascara and the product is very 'wet'. I remove some of the excess product using the mouth of the mascara tube to scrap it off. This helps reveal more of the actual bristles and prevents clumping when applying the mascara on.

Overall, I like the product. I wore it all day yesterday in that Toronto humidity and rain and I didn't have "raccoon" eyes at the end of it. I hope she releases a line of eye shadows next =].

So I hope this was helpful. If you want to read more about the Kate Kat Matte lipsticks, please read my previous post which you can find here.

Let me know if you've tried any of these products and leave me a comment below!

Until next time,
xo, Karen

Katy Perry x Covergirl

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Trial and Error III: Katy Kat Matte Lipsticks

Covergirl teamed up with their spokeswoman, Katy Perry, to release 11 demi-matte lipsticks, the 'Katy Kat Matte' Lipsticks. They're velvety soft lipsticks that go on with minimal fuss and has a semi-shine finish with the non-sticky feel of a full matte lipstick. The formula is creamy enough that it doesn't dry out the lips but matte enough that it doesn't feather or blur around the edges of your lips. I still recommend a lipliner for longer lasting colour, especially for the darker shades, because it will transfer and fade while eating, drinking, etc.

All the colours are beautiful and have punny cat names because of Katy Perry's love for cats. I tried so hard to get my cat to take photos with me for this post, but she would have none of it! The colours I bought were, Kitty Purry - a dusty pink rose (with my tan, it looks baby pink on), Cosmokitty - a light lavender purple with blue undertones, Maroon Meow - a dark maroon and Catoure - a dusty reddish nude (yes, I think this best captures it). I genuinely love all the colours I chose, even Cosmokitty, it's very different from your typical pinks and reds, I don't know where I'm going to wear it but I love it! My favourite, and most used has to be Catoure. It's a great nude shade that just elevates your natural lip colour. It's so pretty and would look good on every skin tone. If I could buy them all, I would! The one I wanted that I can't seem to find is Perry Panther - a black shade.

Overall, these were a great buy! A drugstore lipstick that feels great on the lips and has full colour payoff, yes please! If you get a chance and see these at Shoppers Drug Mart ($8 on sale) or Rexall ($12-13), pick one up!

To see more go to, Covergirl.ca

Thank you for reading!
Until next time,
xo, Karen.

Trial and Error II

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Revlon – Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor

Revlon just released their Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor, a lightweight, 100% wax free, velvety liquid to matte lipstick. Revlon released 8 bold shades and I picked myself up the colour 'HD Addiction'.

This isn't your typical liquid to matte lipstick. The Ultra HD lipsticks go on light and feel very soft on the lips. It has a creamy semi-matte finish - so it doesn't dry completely matte, and even after a couple of hours it maintains its creamy texture. This means it isn't drying on your lips like matte lipsticks normally are. I find these lipsticks aren't super long-lasting, the colour will transfer easily while eating drinking etc, but less so than your standard lipstick.

The lipstick is very easy to apply with its flat doe foot applicator. These are my favourite kind because you can use the flat side to spread the product over your lips evenly, and the tip of the brush to line and create a precise edge around the lip. I find this style of applicator very easy to get a defined lip without having to use a lip liner.


The colour I picked up, HD addiction, is gorgeous. It's a bold - I'm going to say - 'hot magenta'. The colour has blue undertones, which I find more flattering against my yellow skin tone. This lipstick is highly pigmented and has amazing colour payoff. And I have to mention, these lipsticks smell delicious! They smell like watermelon bubblegum - yep, that's how I'm going to describe it. I'm not normally one for scented things - they give me a headache easily, but this scent is pretty pleasant (I mean, come on, watermelon bubblegum!) and you can't smell it after you apply it.

Revlon's Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor is reminiscent of the higher end Anastasia Beverley Hills liquid lipsticks. I think they have the same colour pay off and the texture is pretty much identical, only down side is the smaller range of colours. I think it's a great dup for them, without the hefty price.

Some final thoughts, when I purchased this product, I was expecting a long-wearing matte lipstick, but I'm disappointed that the lipstick isn't completely matte. When a product says matte, I expect it to be matte, this was definitely more of a semi-matte finish, unless you were to blot it with a tissue to mattify the colour. I do love the bold colour, I wanted a colour that is very unlike me, and this hot magenta is very pretty. If you want a semi-matte lipstick that isn't heavy or drying with bold colours, this is still a great lipstick.

You can find these at your local drug store, Shoppers Drug Mart or Rexall, and Walmart. I actually forget how much these were, but I don't think they were more than $12.

I hope you found this helpful, until next time,
xo Karen

NYX Face Awards 2016

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Hey Guys!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to enter the NYX Face Awards contest, where you enter a video of yourself doing a makeup tutorial - spoiler alert: I did not make the Top 30. I didn't expect to make it to the next round. I wanted to, don't get me wrong but I knew with thousands of applicants, and such amazing talent out there, I wasn't going to cut it. I want to think I did it anyway to break out of my comfort zone and really test the waters of my capabilities. I'm actually very proud of the way my video turned out. This was the first time I had ever filmed myself, and edited a video. I had taught myself the whole process in less than a week. I'm surprised I even managed it. There were some obstacles, of course. For example, having to borrow a camera - twice, and then downloading a video editing program - which also meant I had to update my OS in order to run the program, and as well things like whether or not I'd have the time to finish filming/editing. There are many things I need to work on, but all those things will come with time and more experience with making videos. Regardless of the flaws you might find, I learnt a lot during this process and I'm happy I did it.

Now a part of the contest rules was to not show other products besides NYX/the sponsor products. But I did want to share with you guys the products I used, so I'm listing them here. Many of these things I use daily and absolutely love!

Primer - NYX Pore Filler
Foundation - CoverFX Cream Foundation in G50
Translucent Powder - Make Up Forever Super Matte Loose Powder
Bronzer - Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in Natural
Blush - Milani Baked Blush in Berry Amore

Brow Pomade - Tarte Brow Mousse in Rich Brown (Great colour for those with black hair but shines brown in the sun, asian/oriental hair I guess?)

Eyeshadow Primer: Smashbox 24 Hour Photo Finish Shadow Primer
Eyeshadows: Limecrime Venus the Grunge Palette: Creation (dark orange)/Muse(brick red) and Tarte's Holiday Collection 2015 (not shown): Peach On Earth
Liquid Black Liner - Covergirl Full Lash Bloom Mascara (I actually like the Lash Blast Volume better - the orange tube)

Lipstick - NYX Lingerie Liquid Lipstick in Exotic (not shown)

(FYI - All the links will lead you to their respective brand websites. You can find all these products at your drugstore, Shoppers Drug Mart actually carries many of these brands, or Sephora. Lime crime products are only available online)

As daunting as it is to be completely makeup-less on camera for all the internet to see, here is my first ever makeup tutorial, I hope you enjoy it! Let me know in the comments what you think.

xo, Karen


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NYX, the Los Angelos make up brand, has finally opened its own brick-and-mortar store in downtown Toronto. Replacing the MAC store at 363 Queen St. West, I finally got a chance to see the store in person. The brand, now owned by L'Oreal, can be found in Rexall Drugstores, but with the new flagship store, it offers the whole range of NYX goodies.

Walking inside for the first time, it was packed. As with most new and trendy things to happen in Toronto, the market gets saturated very quickly. That being said, it did not deter me from shouldering and elbowing my way through! The store is laid out similarly to MAC, sleek black counters and shelving for the products, and vanities in the centre, with giant mirrors. As well, the typical hot white lights beaming down on you. You really can't hide any flaws with those lights, or sweat. I have to say, they were smart about how they laid out their products. I could find most things in more than one area, which is nice when you're trying to navigate a sea of teens. The personnel, from cashiers to makeup artists were very helpful. For the most part they were ready to help, but did not approach me. Which is fine, considering there were so many people, to me it made more sense to stand by and let the shoppers shop. The cashier who checked me out was really friendly and helpful, even helped me spend more money, ha!

The things I bought and the price break down:

Lip Lingerie (Liquid Lipstick), Exotic - $9 CDN
Full Throttle Lipstick, Con Artist - $10 CDN
Pore Filler - $16 CDN
NYX Pro Fan Brush 06 - $17 CDN
NYX Pro Dual Brow Brush 18 - $10 CDN

The Lingerie Liquid Lipstick that dries matte came highly recommended, my friends have told me that they were even better than NYX's soft matte lip cream, which I already love, so I'm excited to try it. I tried the Full Throttle lipstick in store. It is a lovely brick red colour, it's very matte and apparently waterproof! (You can tell that I love my mattes.) I haven't used the brushes too much to make a full review yet, so I won't say much more. I purchased the pore filler by the recommendation of the cashier, and I already love it. It refines your pores and creates a smoother surface for your makeup, something I will talk about further in a later post.

Overall, I think the prices are quite reasonable for a higher end drugstore brand. I have always loved using NYX products, particularly the lipsticks, so I'm excited to continue to explore the brand.

Go check out the store and brave the crowd. Or shop online, at NYXcosmetics.ca

Let me know what you think! Until next time, 

xo, Karen

Trial and Error I

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Blotterazzi vs. Oil Blot Sheets

Hi Internet! I'm sorry I haven't posted in a long while; I've been putting off blogging for too long. But I'm going to try and be more consistent with my posts. 

Over the pass few months, I've indulged in many new cosmetic products. I bought a lot of good stuff and some not so good stuff that I wanted to share with you guys. To show you these new products, I'm starting a series of "Trial and Error" blogs. It's pretty self explanatory - I'll try the product and let you know how it is!

I'm obsessed with finding new products that can keep my oily skin at bay. Beauty blender came out with "Blotterazzi", 'thirsty' sponges, that are meant to absorb the excess oils on your face without smudging or removing your makeup. They are washable and reusable. It's an environmentally friendlier version of blotting paper. I personally love blotting sheets, they save me from looking like bucket of grease, but they are wasteful. So when I saw this, I was excited! But skeptical whether or not they worked. I saw some reviews on Sephora and the reviews were split 50/50. So whatever, I bought it, and tried it.

First, some details: Blotterazzi comes in a snazzy pearlescent case that is shaped like a tear drop (similar to the beauty blender), inside there are two flat sponges, about 0.5cm in thickness, separated by a clear plastic sheet.

How to use it: Press the sponge into the skin for about 5 seconds and the sponge should absorb the oil. The sponge works best when dry. The tear drop shape allows you to maximize the surface area of the sponge. The fat rounded bottom is meant for larger areas of the skin, like your forehead, while the pointed top gives you the precision for around your nose, or under your brows.

First impressions, I liked that it came in a case for easy travel and keeps them hygienic. It's pricey for just two sponges, but I guess it would be worth it since it's washable and reusable. However, the sponges do a poor job at absorbing any excess oil. I have to really dab the sponge and leave it on the skin for a while before I see a difference. And even after using it, I'll use a blot sheet and remove the oils the sponge missed.

Overall, I'm unimpressed. I had high expectations for this product, especially since Beauty Blender makes terrific make-up sponges that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, Blotterazzi did not live up to my expectations and so I can't recommend this product. I'm a little sadden by this, I was really hoping it'd turn out to be amazing. But I definitely prefer blotting sheets. The sheets absorb oils instantly without any effort and leave your skin matte. So I'm sticking to the blotting sheets for now.

If you're interested in the products I mentioned here they are:

Blotterazzi by Beauty Blender ($28 CDN)

The Face Shop's Oil Control Film (or you can find different brands at your drug store)

Let me know your thoughts!

xo, Karen

Stila – In the Light

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Hi Internet,

Today I'll be reviewing Stila eye shadows, in particular shadows from their 'In the Light' palette. And I'll be showing a quick make up look.

Stila came out with three versions of these palettes, 'In the Know', 'In the Garden' and 'In the Light'. I have the 'In the Light' palette (but I wouldn't mind getting my hands on the other two..). The palette comes with ten different eye shadows, with a combination of matte and shimmery shadows: Bare, Kitten, Bliss, Sunset, Sandstone, Bubbly, Gilded Gold, Luster, Night Sky and Ebony. It also includes their Smudge Stick Waterproof eye liner in Damsel (the one in the box shown below). My palette comes with a large mirror on the inside of the lid - I noticed that some pictures online show only a cardboard lid.

The colours are beautiful and it makes the perfect nude palette. I often use this palette over any other palette I own, even Urban Decay's Naked palette. Stila makes high quality eyeshadows that are very pigmented and go on very smoothly. They blend very easily on the skin, with very little fall out. Nothing bothers me more than putting eye shadow on and the shadow gets all over your face. Defeats the purpose of it being an eye shadow. Because this palette features neutral colours, it would look good on any skin type.

I have swatched the colours for you, I apologize for my poor camera angle. I'm a medium skin tone, and you can see how vibrant each colour stands out on my skin. From left to right you have Bare, Kitten, Bliss, Sunset, Sandstone, Bubbly, Gilded Gold, Luster, Night Sky and Ebony. At the very end I have also swatched Stila's Stay All Day Waterproof liquid eyeliner that I use in the makeup look - one of the best liquid liners by far. I forgot to swatch the liner that comes with the palette, but it's a very nice medium-dark brown, that glides on smoothly, and dries to a matte finish, and stays put once it's dry. Great formula that doesn't 'run' and cause raccoon eyes at the end of the day - at least from my experience.

Now onto the makeup look! I have personally designed my own character model to use for my makeup looks and for the blog - something I will do next time is to print on cardstock.

Step one: Apply 'Bare' in the inner third of your eye lid. You can sweep this colour into the inner corner of your eye and on the lower lash line as well.
Step two: With a fluffy brush, sweep 'Gilded gold' on the outer two thirds of your upper eye lid. Blend up and outwards. Check in your mirror to see if it shows when your eyes are open. With an angle brush, smudge this colour into your lower lash line, concentrating the colour in the outer two thirds.

Step three: With your favourite eye liner - I'm using Stila's Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid eye liner - line your eyes as close to the upper lash line as possible and wing it out! This may take practice, just do small strokes and steady your hand by holding onto your arm with the other.
Don't forget to curl your lashes and apply mascara - here I'm showing Covergirl's Waterproof Lash Blast mascara.
Step four: Highlight the inner corner of your eyes with 'Kitten' or 'Bubbly'.

Some tips: To make your eyeshadow lasts all day and prevent creasing, I suggest wearing a primer before applying your eye makeup. I show above Urban Decay's Primer Potion. To mattify liquid eye liner (because they always dry shiny), take an angel brush and dab on black eye shadow over the liquid liner. This not only mattifies the liner, but also gets rid of any wibbly wobblies from a shaky hand.

And that's it!

I hope this was useful to anyone out there looking for the perfect nude palette.

You can find this palette on Stila's Website, and as well, select drugstores that sell the brand, including Shoppers Drug Mart. I bought mine at Murale by Shoppers Drug Mart for $50.00 CAD (and yes you can use your Shopper points at this store! so go crazy).

If you enjoyed reading this post or have any questions, please leave me a comment! And let me know if you want to see more makeup looks in the future.

Until next time,
xo Kern

Charcoal Everything

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Left to Right: Lush - Dark Angels, Biore - Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser, Garnier - Anti-Shine Cleansing Gel, Lush - Coalface

Charcoal-based cleansers are all the rage right now. And thank goodness they are, because they're amazing. Charcoal cleansers are great for those who have oily skin (like me!). It also great at removing excess dirt and grime built up in the pores of the skin. Charcoal is essentially charred organic material, that is removed of water and oxygen, leaving behind an ashy material, charcoal, pretty much black carbon. What goes into your charcoal cleansers is what is known as "Activated Charcoal" - charcoal that has been processed, typically with heat, to give the carbon a fine porous structure. The microscopic pores increases the surface area of charcoal and makes it highly effective at absorption, in turn, making it ideal to use in cosmetic skin care products.

Your skin cells are itself porous. They are very good at absorbing dirt, bacteria and oils. Of course, your skin naturally produces oils throughout the day, which is necessary to keep your skin from drying out (and you know, to keep it skin-like) - so technically those oils are good for you. However, for some, skin will produce excessive amount of oils (sebum), that can sit in the pores of the skin, clog them, and cause acne. So with everything you go through in a day, imagine how much crud gets onto your face. Activated Charcoal has even finer pores and therefore has a higher surface area. Generally, the greater the surface area, the greater the area there is for absorption to occur. It makes charcoal very effective at drawing the oils and dirt away from skin and removes them.

I have tried many different formulations of activated charcoal cleansers, above are the ones I am currently using daily and am quite fond of (with the exception of the Garnier cleanser - this is Bryan's favourite).

Lush probably makes my favourite cleanser, Dark Angels. This stuff is amazing, and anyone I have recommended this product to has absolutely loved it.

Dark Angels is a charcoal sugar scrub, with avocado oil. Scrubs exfoliate your skin, by removing dead skin cells, along with dirt and grime. Typically, harsh exfoliants, like a sugar scrub, leaves your skin feeling raw and pink. Harsh exfoliants are meant to strip you skin completely, leaving your skin and pores feeling tight. Dark Angels is different, while it does exfoliate your skin, giving you a very deep clean because of the added moisturizing effect of avocado oil, it prevents your skin from drying out and it leaves it feeling very soft and not raw at all. Your skin instantly looks and feels cleaner, softer, and brighter. It's such a wonderful product and I honestly think that it's great for all skin types.

I use this once or twice a week, since it gives a more deeper clean, I don't really need to use it everyday. I mainly use it when my skin is looking extra tired and feels extra gross - great for those days when you wear heavy make up, or you've been sweating all day long. Pro-tip: definitely use this in your shower! It gets messy! Before getting into the shower or be in the shower with the shower head off, take a nickel size amount in your hand, create a paste like texture with a little bit of warm water, and rub gently onto your face (avoid your eyes). I always work the scrub down my neck, and even on my shoulders and chest. And then rinse off with some warm water. Trust me when I say, your skin will feel and look amazing after. Go try it, seriously.

Above are Biore's Deep Pore Cleanser and Garnier's Anti-shine Cleansing Gel. I also wanted to compare these products to Michael Todd's Charcoal Detox Cleanser (not shown). These products have a gel formula with fine charcoal particles suspended in the gel. As you can see, Biore's cleanser has larger flecks of charcoal, where as in Garnier's cleanser, the charcoal particles are more homogenous.

My addiction to charcoal cleansers began when I heard about Michael Todd's Charcoal Detox Cleanser. I don't have it anymore, I've used it all (which is a pretty good indication that I liked it). It was a great product and it changed the quality of my skin. It reduced the amount of excess oils on my face and helped keep my acne at bay. Being in Canada, however, you can only buy this product online. After I purchase this one, slowly, charcoal cleansers were becoming more popular in Canadian drug stores. Biore came out with their version (I think before most brands did) and I immediately bought it to try it. In my opinion, the Biore Cleanser is pretty much on par with Michael Todd. They both have very similar consistency and formulation. Biore's is just as effective as the Michael Todd version, not to mention its cheaper and more easily accessible. When you work the Biore formulation into your skin, it gives off a nice cooling sensation. As I've mentioned before, I have oily skin and acne. I use the cleanser at night time when I shower. This product always makes my skin feel very clean afterwards. Especially since I wear make-up everyday and basically sweat in it in the summer months. This cleanser removes all the excess makeup that my makeup remover didn't catch and giving it a fresh feeling. Since using these products, along with other components of my skin care routine (which I will put up here soon) it has helped keep my skin as clear as it can be. I still get acne, but at least I'm preventing it from getting worse (and trust me, it could be worse).

I went to this L'oreal sale, and picked up the Garnier's Anti-shine cleansing gel on a whim for Bryan - my boyfriend. He needed a new cleanser and I kinda wanted to get him to try something charcoal-based because I had such an amazing experience with them. So, I bought him this one. And let me tell you, ever since he started using it (he's on his second tube now), his skin has never looked better. I compliment him on a regular basis of how good his skin looks. Bryan gets acne, and has large pores. But lately, his acne is minimal and his skin looks brighter, and the pores look smaller. He tells me he's been really enjoying it, so much, that he did repurchase it. I tried this one to see what it was like. The formula is more fluid than Biore's formulation, and also gives a nice cooling sensation when worked into the skin. Bryan likes it, and that's all I'll say.

The last one is Lush's Coalface complexion bar cleanser. This is a solid bar of soap with powdered charcoal mixed in. Similar to the others, the charcoal absorbs all excess dirt and oils. Unlike Dark Angels, which has a moisturizing effect, Coalface is much more soap like. It strips your skin, so your skin is devoid of anything and everything, so it feels completely bare, and "squeaky" clean. It's also good to mention that it's a lot less messy to use! The small pieces of charcoal gets removed from the bar as you lather up your hands with the product, and this act as a mild exfoliant that helps remove dead skin cells, and there are other oils Lush adds to help keep your skin balanced. And just like the others, removing excess oils and dirt helps prevent acne and blemishes. You can definitely use Coalface daily, I actually use this one everyday in the morning. For me, using a mild exfoliant in the morning wakes up my skin and gives a clear canvas, making it easier to apply make-up.

So there you have it! I have tried a couple more that I did not mention, but these are the ones that are used daily in my household. Below are links to find out more and where you can purchase them:

Lush - Dark Angels: in store or online
Lush - Coalface: in store or online
Biore - Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser: Walmart/Drugstores
Garnier - Anti-shine Cleansing Gel: Walmart/Drugstores
Michael Todd - Charcoal Detox Cleanser: Online (at least that's where I purchased mine)

I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you decide to pickup any of these products and try it yourself! If you have any questions please feel free to comment below. And if you have any recommendations for another charcoal cleanser, or any cleanser in general, let me know! As you can tell, I love trying different products.

Happy Canada Day! I'll see you guys next time =] (and hopefully in less than a week).

xo, Kern.