hibernation, winterising skin, and some makeup


Skin is feeling drier as the weather gets colder. It’s not dramatic: right now, here in Vancouver the temperature has dropped from around 16-18° C to around about 12-13. Big deal. And it’s currently raining. Skin isn’t getting dried out through dry air, nor through excess indoor heating and massive climactic vatiation between indoors and outdoors. But it does mean that the mid-northern clammy chill has started. Winter is coming…


product and ingredient updates

Golly, it’s been a whole month since I last posted on here. Deary dreary me. There have been reasons, of course: work and writing elsewhere about other things. I’ve also neglected MUA, again for Reasons:

1. Didn’t have anything to contribute, on topics or issues outside my knowledge or anything remotely resembling competence. Ex. teens and twenty-somethings with back-to-school/uni skin blues.

2. Didn’t feel like doing or saying anything beyond a good eye-roll in response to the inane, vapid, small-minded, selfish, and terminally stupid. Nothing I could have said would have had any effect, except maybe making someone feel worse about themselves without the redemption of seeing what they could do to make that (and themselves) better. Which would be pointlessly mean, and as bad as the original folly.

Life and Evolution will sort things out anyway. Nature vs. Folly: Nature wins.

Plus there’s that thing about casting stones when not without sin oneself. And it doesn’t matter: none of these things matter, it’s just an online forum, this is just a blog, there are more important things going on in the real world, which might also kill us all and make online follies doubly foolish and vapid, extinct and expunged from all records. I mean, crap, can you imagine if there were to be a great cataclysm (or if a certain current man-made disaster were to worsen), and the more foolish parts of the Internet survived but every ancient site and artefact from Morocco to Indonesia was obliterated? How culturally embarrassing, how embarrassing to all humanity, would that be? It’s already happening. Egypt. Syria. Iraq. Chechnya. Afghanistan. The Mediterranean, Black Sea, Fertile Crescent, the Nile and Tigris and Euphrates and Indus rivers.

Nature vs. Folly: Folly scores a point here.

3. Didn’t have anything to contribute, when other people had already said what I would have said, and often better, and always more succinctly. Sure, one could add one’s voice to add to a number of votes: but truths, as we all know, are not true or made more true by having numbers of votes behind them.

One could add one’s voice to add The Weight Of Authority (voice of experience and expertise, that sort of thing). And then either feel smug when one’s vote was treated as authoritative, thus reinforcing one’s Authoritative Status, in a virtuous smug-enhancing circle and an upwards spiral. Or feel sniffy if that didn’t happen. And misanthropic. In other words, move into a psychotic vicious circle and downward spiral.

I admit, I sorta kinda nearly did that a couple fair few times. But I stopped, because:

(a) I know I don’t like Authority.

(b) While, being a humble fragile human, I am as prone to foibles, flattery, and folly as anyone else; and as likely to fall prey to vanity and hubris: I feel uncomfortable about the idea of Being An Authority (because (a) above) and am not sure I would like or want to be one. I mean, in two words, Caroline Hirons. Or, to be fair, any other YouTube etc. “guru.”

(c) I’m not an authority anyway.

(d) “Seconding” etc. other people’s comments won’t change that, nor will others’ flattering comments especially if from trolls or Children In Need.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 2.14.23 PM

Not (just) being sarcastic: a splendid charity…

Hey, who knows, I might actually be an Authority: but I would rather risk that remaining unknown and not acknowledged and acclaimed publicly, rather than confusing Being An Authority with Being A Prat. Just as publicly.

That public thing increases the riskiness. The public eye is a flaw-enhancing magnifying-glass, mean and mean-spirited, without filters except those to caricature, by removing anything that is good or complicated, and all context, balance, and bigger picture.

3. Nothing much new or interesting. For me and my skin and products and so on, personally, selfishly. No news is good news.

4. I spend quite a lot of my work time helping and advising other people, patiently and calmly. This can be very rewarding, even when it is also trying. I don’t want to do it in what little leisure time I have too. I know what my professional time is worth, I do some other extra stuff for free for people who genuinely need it, and I sure as hell am not going to give away research, consulting, and advising services for free to people who are often (though not always) rich, spoiled, pampered, ungrateful, rude, undeserving little sods.

5. After having my lovely month away from everything in the summer, I found myself reading through a lot of online stuff that I had previously found to be riveting and worth obsessing over, and now found myself skipping over in a cursory fashion. Getting bored and going to do something else more interesting after just a couple of minutes. Caring less about Board Stuff than before. Often not caring at all. OK, apart from basic human sympathy for people who are suffering.

So there you have it.

News on the morosophical front:

My intolerance of aloe vera has gone, and some fragrance ones have reduced. Discovered via hair stuff used at hairdressers’. I’m using aloe in the following ways:

1. On damp face as a soother and humectant, before oil.

2. On hair and scalp, mixed into shampoo. Sometimes also conditioner when I can be bothered.

The aloe I’m using is the Aubrey Organics one, which is mainly aloe vera and water, with a little gum and I think some tocopherol acetate. It’s a clear liquid. It was in the fridge for use on The Beloved when he forgets to use sunscreen (or reapply, or do it properly) and gets sunburned. Poor lamb. There’s a bunch of different kinds of aloe vera stuff around. A lot of them have carbomers, which are irritating on my skin (in other products too). Some also have menthol or eucalyptus for a cooling sensation, similarly avoided. These are often also an exciting lurid green colour and may contain other equally exciting stuff: fun if you want to develop exciting skin reactions in time for Hallowe’en, perhaps. There is also the classic aloe vera delivery system that is an aloe plant. They’re great, and cheap. Sadly I don’t have one right now, but am planning on getting one.

My skin was being drier, and I ended up giving up on my main vitamin C serums as my skin retained moisture better (and was not dry, flaky, itchy–the itchiness of tight dryness mind you, not irritation) without either serum than with. And better again with aloe vera. Weird, as August experiments indicated the contrary.

Conclusion: skin is weird, and changes, and I don’t really understand it.

On which happy note, as far removed from Authority and its grand pronouncements as possible, it’s back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now…

Truth in advertising + Dove

sunscreen: some myth-busting, inc. limits to the practicality and safety of DIY

The Beauty Brains (2014-08-20):
Some nice mythbusting: yes, you should wear sunscreen and no, it doesn’t make you vitamin D deficient.
(In “sunscreen” one should include all things protecting / screening you from the sun, including clothes, shade, and other avoidance.)

Personal Care Truth: Information based on scientific facts (2014-08-06):
Why you shouldn’t try to make sunscreen yourself (“sunscreen” here = lotion / cream / etc. applied to skin) but should use something that’s been properly formulated (adding: by a properly trained, qualified, and experienced professional cosmetic chemist) and tested.

And from earlier in the summer:

And from even earlier on:

There's no such thing as too much protection, nor too much multi-tasking: here, some chocolate that won't melt in the sun (found online, would love to find IRL)

There’s no such thing as too much protection: here, some chocolate that won’t melt in the sun


sunscreen: why use it?

palm oil: careful not to throw the baby out with the bath-water

baby bathwater

From Thomas Murner’s satirical work Narrenbeschwörung (Appeal to Fools), c. 1512

Via a certain online discussion forum; identities have as ever been anonymised, and any other editing has been of typos, spelling, etc. so that they don’t detract from the actual content. Some good questions:


1. How hard is it to avoid palm oil?
2. And by any chance is it in mascara?
3. What is a good alternative?

I’ve read that other substitutes are not much better (ex. soy oil) because they also take a lot of land to grow. Help! I do my best to not consume items that have ill effects on the rainforests.

4. Or is it all just hopeless?


baby panda bathing

it’s never hopeless…

Continue reading

another update: serum

I didn’t use serum while I was away, as I forgot to pack it. I often leave it behind anyway, as I prefer to pack light / minimalist and usually in one carry-on bag (except that if I’m going for more than a week in summer or a couple of weeks in winter, I’ll need to pack a checked bag for the sunscreen supplies).

On my return, I used up the last of my older supplies of Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce vitamin C serum. Good stuff. Will be getting that again.

I had also ordered some more of the ASDM Beverly Hills vitamin C serum online while I was away. Yep, epic vacation fail: didn’t entirely manage to escape the interweb and buying stuff. Bad me. My purchases were awaiting me when I returned home. Which is always nice. As previously, the multiple layers of packaging were insane, but the contents had to be fair been well protected from the elements and all possible perils, and probably also every imaginable threat and a few that would be barely conceivable to the imaginative or maybe even unimaginable. All that was missing was an explosive-proof metal box.

The tail end of one bottle of serum overlapped with the start of another. This enabled some side-by-side testing. Approximate, but still. The two serums are quite different in composition: both contain the magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) form of vitamin C, but ASDM BH has more of it; both contain extra antioxidants, but different ones; both also contain humectants (ASDM BH has a fair whack of hyaluronic acid, SN has a small quantity of glycerin); both are unscented; both contain some ingredients that might or might not break some people out in spots or irritate. I’ve talked about them previously in other reviews on here, in the main “vitamin c” post series and under “antioxidant serum.”

ASDM BH VITAMIN C SERUM INGREDIENTS: Distilled water, Hyaluronic Acid (15%), Vitamin C [MAP] 15%, Grape seed Extract, Green Tea Extract, [Bees Wax, HE-Cellulose, Polyglyceryl Oleate], Pure Rice bran Oil, Pure Argan Oil, Vitamin E, Matrixyl 3000, Silk Amino Acids, Honey Extract, EDTA Tetrasodium, Silk Powder, Germall, Potassium, Allantoin, Aloe-vera Leaf Extract

Current price: $30.00 / 2 oz (=$15.00/oz)
+ shipping (USA to Canada): $9.55 for two bottles (I always get two, I use this stuff on body too)
Information source: http://www.asdmbeverlyhills.com/Vitamin-C-Serum-15–Vitamin-C-15-ASDM-Beverly-Hills_p_50.html

SN AWESOME SAUCE VITAMIN C SERUM INGREDIENTS: Distilled Water, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Capric Capryllic Triglycerides and Teprenone, Thermus Thermophilus Ferment (and) Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract, Propanediol, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, Gluconoactone and Sodium Benzoate, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Panthenol, Sea Bukthorn Berry Oil (note: my actual bottles have never had sea buckthorn berry oil in the ingredient-list on the label)

Current price: $18.95 / 1 oz
+ shipping (USA to Canada): $9.41 for one bottle plus a load of other stuff (I usually order a bunch of stuff but not too much, and seem to have got quantities and weights right after years of practice so my shipping is never over $10…)
Information source: http://host.silknaturals.com/creb/awesome-sauce-antioxidant-serum-p-1302.html

Tested split-face and on hands and arms, one serum on each side.


1. Quantity required: about the same to cover the same surface area.

2. Application: both are gels; ASDM BH is now clear, old version was creamy-coloured. The SN is more forgiving if applied to damped skin. With the ASDM BH, skin was sucked dry in instants.

Applied to dryish skin: felt much the same. I then patted on some water; just a couple of drops from the good old tap.

3. Once the hurdle of (2) above had been surmounted, skin feel within the next minute: the same.

4. After ten minutes: slightly moister and plumped-up-er on the ASDM BH side. A more silken skin-feel.

5. After an hour: ditto.

6. I didn’t keep pinching myself all day, because unfortunately I lost focus and got distracted from the important business of skincare testing. By work. Sorry. I know, I know, what can be more important and interesting than blogs and skincare and diarying and self-examination and obsessive self-reporting and all those things that are The Selfie writ large into one’s whole life, lifestyle, and extended beyond oneself into culture and human existence itself, verily and forsooth? It’s way beyond zeitgeist, man.

7. But I did some pinching and punching of myself in the evening. Punishing myself for my failings of earlier. Making up for the pinching I’d missed out on earlier. And the final results?

SN vs ASDM BH: ASDM BH wins on moisture retention.

8. I also experimented, using the vasty swathes of my largest available skin-expanse (thighs), to draw some further comparisons. In all cases, with a layer of oil on top and then sunscreen, to replicate normal daily skin conditions

(a) either of the two serums vs. nothing:
serum wins

(b) either serum vs. layer of dampness (=water from bathroom tap; our water is quite soft–low mineral content–and slightly acidic) on skin:
serum wins

(c) vs. witch-hazel hydrosol (=water-based, steam-distilled, no alcohol):
serum wins

(d) nothing vs. either dampness or WH:
the latter two win

(e) dampness vs. witchery:
plain water wins

9. I’ve previously used other hyaluronic acid serums (not as good as the ASDM BH) and plain glycerin (irritation and spottiness, except in low concentration, when hydrating results are little different from plain WH or water alone). I have also used rosewater and RW-and-glycerin toners, ages ago, that were good. Not for ages though as I can’t stand the smell anywhere within, well, smelling distance or my nose. Which means not using them on my face.

I’ve used various other serums over the last few years. Mostly just testing them out in small quantities, in limited tests (limited by the quantity provided and, all too often, self-limited by reaction). I’ve found some others that were good on the moisture-retaining side: for example, the oat serums from Garden of Wisdom and Silk Naturals. I found both of these to be better than glycerin solutions or more hyaluronicky concoctions.

I’ve also tested out a lot of vitamin C serums. The ASDM BH one and SN Awesome Sauce are the two moistest I’ve used.

10. So here’s a ranking of these various humectant layers, from weakest to strongest:

—witch-hazel hydrosol
—Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce vitamin C serum
—ASDM Beverly Hills vitamin C serum

11. ASDM BH is cheaper, including when you factor in the postage cost to Canada; the same should be true for other countries outside both companies’ homes in the USA. Though it should be noted that shipping worked out much the same for me, as neither order was just one bottle of serum.

12. But: in a drier climate, it may be better to avoid humectants like hyaluronic acid. Also if you don’t have the time or coordination to faff about with an extra layer of dampness to skin between the serum and moisturiser layers. In such circumstances Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce is recommended instead.

The usual caveats apply, as ever. This is my skin. It is dry and dehydrated, thin, reactive; it can be finicky, foolish, frivolous; whimsical. What works on it and how it responds to or reacts (or over-reacts) to anything will not necessarily be the same as what does or doesn’t on your or anyone else’s skin. Whim and whimsy must be taken into consideration, yet cannot be predicted.

Expect the unexpected. Have no expectations. The only exceptions to these rules are those trivial yet cardinal (and I don’t mean serums or any other skincare) trusty reliables in life: a good cup of tea or coffee, a decent glass of something cool, chillaxing sitting on a beach, enjoying sunshine or looking forward to the next glimpse thereof… that sort of thing.

summer updates

magic oil

I was away. This involved not carrying too much stuff. Unfortunately, until the FAA and suchlike get rid of that absurd 3-1-1 max 3 oz / 100 ml rule, I am obliged to check in one bag when flying, so as to have adequate sunscreen supplies. Until the kind of sunscreen I can use on my skin is available more widely, I am stuck with carrying around my own supplies. (Next time you see someone with a more visible disability than my relatively trivial one, spare them a thought.) Given that I live half-way around the world from the various places I was going, and given that I didn’t have the time to go by slow boat or foot: I was obliged to fly. Yes, I made my carbon-offsetting donations (and percentage-of-ticket-price donation to trees), like a good person.

Here are the lucky beautification products that accompanied me on my jet-setting adventures.

Continue reading

update on sunscreens

A quickie: this post on the 2014 sunscreen crop has been updated.

Main update: I’m still happy, more than six weeks in, with both Babo Botanicals and the Derma E body sunscreens. Both are zinc oxide-only and SPF 30. I’m also using the Babo Botanicals Sunstick (ditto on main active and SPF) on lips and around the eyes.

Next: we will see how they all perform while away in Europe in July.


  • Derma E = fantastic, and easy to use in hotter weather. This became the default sunscreen while away.
  • Babo Botanicals = less fantastic, less spreadable, and becomes less usable with heat. Seems thicker then. Hard to get an even spread on skin, anyway. Gave up on it :(
  • I also brought emergency backup supplies of Vanicream SPF 50, just in case, and used it on more exposed parts (shoulders, feet) especially if doing more active and/or watery stuff.


  • ditched the Derma E, went back to the Vanicream. Reasons:
    1. the Derma E got a bit streaky and sort of crumbly on skin. Tricky to reapply evenly.
    2. on one occasion, I went out wearing only it and forgot my hat. I know, stupid. It was a cloudy day. Then the weather changed. Anyway: forehead and nose started to exhibit some pinkness after about an hour.
    3. after return to the Vanicream, I repeated the experience, deliberately this time. Skin was fine. Conclusion: Vanicream is a better and more protective sunscreen. (Also, no streaking etc.)

I’m also using other things for sun protection: I never depend exclusively on a sunscreen for protection; indeed I would consider sunscreen as a secondary supplementary measure with the primary one being everything else: clothes, sunglasses, a hat, seeking shade, avoiding peak hours, and taking and applying antioxidants. Anyway, I added a few word about them too.

Happy sunning: it’s good for you, and mental health and emotional wellbeing.

WARNING: Apply in moderation and using common sense. Symptoms of sunstroke may include perceptual distortion including hallucinations. May be difficult to distinguish from the side-effects of too many cocktails.