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Today we have another 'new in skin' and I really wish I hadn't grouped together so many actives into one post, because this has been in my drafts for so many months that these are barely new any more. Lesson learned! However, it's here now and I have reviews for you of sorta-new high-end skincare...


The first product I have to talk about seems to have dropped off the face of the UK - I hope it comes back soon! (I can see it's still available in the US, which is odd given Elemis is a British brand, so I'll link that for the INCI list here.) Anyway, the product is the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm Naked | £44. I personally love many of the scents in their cleansing balm and I do feel it adds to the overall sensorial experience and fragrance in a wash-off product without any actives in it is not the end of the world, in my personal opinion. However, options are good and some people find strong scents give them migraines; they deserve a luxury cleansing experience too! I was intrigued to see if this worked similarly to the others I've tried from the range, because the cleansing balm is made up of fragrant essential oils, so it's not just like removing 'Fragrance' as a single added element: some of those oils are doing some of the cleansing. I dipped a scooper into the surface and, yes: it was that beautiful, smooth, buttery formula I was used to. It felt nourishing but still emulsified easily, removing any traces of makeup and sunscreen with no tugging or effort. It doesn't leave behind an excess and still feels so nice to use. Just a few things to flag: this does contain orange peel wax; it's unlikely to cause problems, even in a leave-on product, but could have trace amounts of the essential oil. Shea butter and sweet almond oil are also great, but there's some coconut oil in here; it's low on the INCI list but can be a little comedogenic. I personally don't find residue stays on my skin after use, but it might be a concern to others, which is why I'm mentioning it.

The next product is really a morning or second cleanse. The Nue Co Barrier Culture Cleanser* | £32 | was sent over to me by Cult Beauty and I actually enjoyed it so much that I recently ordered the moisturiser to try. This is a light gel cleanser; mixed with water it lathers lightly but it's nothing super-foaming. I find this gentle and non-drying; it leaves my skin clean and soft without compromising its barrier. In fact, the ingredients in here can be super-beneficial for maintaining the integrity of your skin barrier, which in turn helps reduce sensitivity and redness and assists with the skin's moisture retention. It contains pre, pro and postbiotics, which I'll discuss more in a dedicated post at some point, but effectively prebiotics encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, probiotics are the live bacteria itself and postbiotics are the byproduct created by the processes probiotics carry out. Of course, our skin is teeming with bacteria, and keeping a nice balance can contribute towards healthier skin. We also have hyaluronic acid, to draw water into the skin, and lactic acid, which is a milder acid exfoliant (especially in a wash-off product) but it's quite low on the INCI list, so could be more there for hydration in this formula.


It's not quite an active-active, so let's talk about the Wildsmith Dual Action Exfoliating Treatment* | £55. This is a hybrid exfoliant with both physical (cherry stone) and chemical (PHA and AHA in the form of glycolic acid, as well as pineapple enzymes) exfoliation. I do find cherry stone to be a bit... borderline. We're almost getting into that apricot scrub territory. I always advise with these sorts of products to simply apply it to the skin, leave it for a couple of minutes for the chemical exfoliation to work and the action of rinsing it off is enough physical exfoliation. I never actually scrub! I would say that for sensitive skin, this might not be the best option because these sorts of natural exfoliating particles can have uneven, jagged edges that can cause microtears in the skin. I personally didn't experience irritation with this product, but someone else could, so I kind of wish this was just a chemical exfoliation mask! It comes out as a sort of paste and the chemical exfoliation is actually very gentle but still worked really well for my skin. I saw that instant glow boost without any redness or sensitivity and my skin felt smooth and looked fresh. I guess it's just not my favourite, particularly for the price-point, though Wildsmith do make some other lovely products like their peptide moisturiser.


The first product I'll discuss is billed as a 'do it all' active: the Emma Hardie Midas Touch Super Serum* | £58. The star ingredients are: niacinamide, ascorbyl glucoside (a Vitamin C derivative) and bakuchiol. Then the supporting ingredients are: squalane (a plant-based, skin-similar oil), soothing aloe and nourishing shea butter. This one does contain fragrant essential oils. Focusing in on the actives: niacinamide is pretty high up on the INCI list but the exact percentage isn't listed. This didn't irritate my skin using it every morning for around about 6 weeks, so I would imagine it's under a 10% concentration. Niacinamide is an amazing all-rounder; it can regulate oil production in the skin, reduce inflammation and contribute towards a healthy skin barrier. When it comes to Vitamin C, ascorbic acid is the gold standard when it comes to antioxidant and collagen-stimulating benefits, but it can be unstable and irritating on the skin. Derivatives like this can possibly still give those benefits and do also help with brightening and evening-out the skin tone. Bakuchiol is an interesting ingredient; I think some brands have got a bit carried away with it being 'the natural retinol' because I wouldn't say it gives results on the same level. However, it's a good option if you're pregnant and it can be used in the daytime (retinoids tend not to bre photostable) as well as being easy to formulate with alongside other ingredients. It's not bad to have in the mix, it can provide some skin-smoothing benefits. I really enjoyed the texture of this serum; it's light but still felt moisturising and immediately increased hydration levels in my skin. I also really like that it's so gentle; I rotated this in after my skin had a bit of a wobble and I was easing back into active ingredients. It gave me smoother, more even skin that felt balanced with zero irritation. If you find single-ingredient skincare a little bit bamboozling: this is a great all-rounder.

Next, let's talk about the Kate Somerville Resurfacing Overnight Peel* | £76. I love Kate Somerville, so was expecting to love this product, and I did like it but I do think maybe I prefer other options on the market. Here's why... This peel combines retinol (the only class of topical with study after study proving it can reverse the signs of ageing, it's also great for acne, scarring and uneven skin tone), glycolic acid (a glow-boosting, resurfacing AHA with a small molecular size) and niacinamide (because, alongside all the benefits I've mentioned earlier in the post, it can also treat hyperpimentation and uneven skin tone). You also have ceramides and Vitamin E to buffer these stronger actives and soothe and replenish the skin. Licorice extract is in there, which has skin-brightening properties and also hyaluronic acid. It's not for newbies to these ingredients and you need to be a religious sunscreen-wearer to incorporate this into your routine. It comes out as a cream that feels pretty moisturising, so you could just cleanse and use this in the evening. I used the peel a couple of times a week as I'm usually using retinal every single night. My skin wasn't irritated after use, but I could feel the product, if that makes sense? I suppose I would just prefer to use an encapsulated retinal every night over a very strong product like this every so often. Glycolic isn't my favourite acid either, as it can be a bit irritating (plus, this contains fragrance, niacinamide and retinol). As someone who uses other actives in my routine, I much prefer a PHA or a mandelic acid (or even a lactic). This did give me smoother, more even skin, but I just prefer a slower retinoid and exfoliation experience over an intense hit like this less regularly.

Next, let's talk about the Strivectin Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturising Serum* | £60. Personally, I do not think daily exfoliation is necessary for the vast majority of people, so I instead incorporated this as an 'every other day' treatment alternated with my retinal, which is saying a lot because I don't give up nightly retinal easily. Lactic acid is an AHA but it has a larger molecular size than glycolic acid, so can be less irritating. It can also have hydrating benefits for the skin. Though lactic acid is derived from milk, it's often made in a lab now - this one was so it's vegan. There are peptides in here (their anti-ageing benefits are debatable but they're hydrating and skin-plumping) and it contains Strivectin's own form of niacin, which is a B vitamin I'd imagine is going to work similarly to niacinamide. There's also rice bran extract and bisabolol in here to help soothe the skin. My only negatives are that it contains fragrance (I don't necessarily mind it, but it can be ropey for some when in an exfoliating treatment) and mica. All mica does is give things a sheeny effect; it's totally cosmetic and it seems extra-unnecessary in an overnight product. It's really hard to trace if mica is being sourced ethically, so I personally feel the brand should be considering removing this entirely from the formula. In terms of the results: this isn't irritating and I wake up every morning after using it with the super-soft skin of a newborn baby! It really is that effective. I know there's some dimethicone in here but even after my morning cleanse I can feel the smoothness and see that immediate glow boost. It also helps even out the skin's tone and texture over prolonged use. I'd have to say it's the best exfoliating serum I've tried in a long, long time.

I'm sure if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I've been loving the Sachi Skin Ursolic Acid & Retinal Overnight Reform* | £64.99. Retinal is like the next step up from retinol; not in strength (this is a 0.05% concentration) but in terms of how direct it is. The ultimate goal of applying a retinoid topically is to deliver retinoic acid to your skin cells. Looking at the least direct form: retinol esters (like retinyl palmitate), your skin has to convert it to retinol, then retinal, then retinoic acid. So, by using a retinol instead, you're cutting out a conversion and retinal cuts out another conversion. Effectively, your skin has to put in less effort and it's more likely that more retinoic acid will be received. Retinoic acid itself is available via prescription, but it can be pretty rough on the skin, whereas this retinal (encapsulated for a slower release of this potent ingredient) is so gentle. Take my word with a pinch of salt, if you aren't as experienced with retinoids as me, but this gave me no irritation, I didn't experience any of the drying effects associated with retinoids and it didn't cause me any purging (a short period of breakouts caused by increased cell turnover). Obviously, we've mentioned bakuchiol before, and it's in this formula because there's some promising research suggesting that combining bakuchiol with retinoids can actually boost the effectiveness of the overall formula. The liposomal ursolic acid is in there as an anti-inflammatory, black cumin seed oil is also great for that reason (and can also indirectly be helpful for breakouts) and rosehip oil may be good for scarring (plus adds a nourishing buffer for the retinal). There are also antioxidants in here and niacinamide, which also has that dual purpose of helping with uneven pigmentation in the skin. This is an absolute powerhouse of a formula that's an amazing all-in-one PM treatment if you have any issues with scarring or pigmentation. For me, this is an essential maintenance product because - as someone over 25 - I find a retinoid to be the basis of my skincare routine. This gives me smoother, fresher skin and keeps things looking nice and even. I don't know how it's so gentle yet so effective, but whatever they've done: it's worked!

Lastly, for our actives I have the Dermalogica Powerbright Dark Spot Serum* | £89. I noticed this product had quite a few poor reviews on the brand website (fair play to them for leaving them up - many brands sadly don't...) and reading through them, they were mostly from people saying they'd used this for a couple of weeks (and in some cases, days - god forbid!) I'm sure I don't have to tell you all this but: you will not see improvements in pigmentation issues until after a month, as an absolute minimum. I personally find niacinamide (the star ingredient here) to be a slow-burn, so I would recommend 6-8 weeks to assess this product, which will get you about 1/3 - 1/2 through the bottle with once-daily use. As mentioned, as far as the brightening effect this product is advertising: niacinamide is really the primary driver, though the brand doesn't say the exact percentage. There's a hyaluronic acid derivative in here, but otherwise there are mainly plant oils in the mix, which allows it to have this moisturising finish. It comes out as a sort of light lotion so you really don't need to layer it with a hydrating serum and it actually looks and feels really nice, having that smoothing, softening effect on the skin as a bonus. This does take a while to kick in but I did have some worse-than-usual hormonal breakouts recently that I was a bit concerned would scar and stick around for weeks and weeks. I'd been using this serum for a couple of weeks already and noticed that the red marks dissipated really nicely. The formula does work and it is surprisingly nice to use, my only gripe is that for the price, I do wish it contained some other supplementary ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation (a Vitamin C derivative, arbutin, kojic, tranexamic...) It's kind of hard to tell you to spend £89 on a moisturising niacinamide serum.


Finally for this post, I'm going to talk about the new-ish First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream* | £38. I think it's important to discuss topical collagen in general before diving into this specific product review. Obviously, collagen levels deplete as we age, and ingredients like retinol and ascorbic acid (the gold standard in Vitamin C) can help stimulate collagen production, however applying collagen topically is a little different, as it has quite a large molecular size. I sometimes liken it to the fact that rubbing hair into a bald patch isn't going to make it grow more hair. However, I was sat in on an event with the brand and they actually didn't make these claims, which is quite refreshing to see. There are other benefits to topical collagen (like hydration and skin plumpness) and this product is pretty mid-range in terms of pricing, so it's not like you're paying a fortune and being promised the world. This had a beautifully melting texture but provided deep moisture to my skin. My skin looked plumper and using this cream seemed to give it a healthy look and feel. Overall: it's a solid day cream for normal or dry skin or night cream for oily or combination skin.

Have you tried any of these recent launches?

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