In spring last year I decided to do a similar post to the sorts of things I see from the US beauty YouTubers in terms of Sephora, but with Cult Beauty as a UK alternative, and today I'm bringing you part 2, focusing on skincare (and what better time to do it? They have 20% off skincare currently and it ends today). These are 10 products that - at least at the time of writing - are 5-star rated on Cult (based on 10+ reviews), but are they worth the hype...?
First up, it's the Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm* | £37 | full review. If you follow me on Instagram or saw my original review: you have the spoiler - I loved this cleanser! It's a buttery-soft cleansing balm that takes zero effort to melt into the skin. It effortlessly eases apart makeup (including waterproof mascara) and sunscreen whilst being really gentle. Emulsify it with water after you've worked it in then remove it with a damp face cloth for soft, clean skin without any film or excess. For me, it's that beautiful texture that really makes this product.
I have another cleanser to talk about: the Omorovicza Moor Cream Cleanser | £59. I actually got a generous mini of this as, I think, a 'sorry' from Space NK for some sort of issue with my order along with a few other deluxe samples and as soon as I put this on my skin, it was love - obviously I got the full size. Omorovicza is pure luxury and this cleanser is no exception - it's pricey but it's just a step in my routine I truly look forward to. I recently caught up with the brand and what they do that's truly unique is that instead of formulating with 'normal' water, they use their Hungarian Thermal Water that's extracted with a patented technology, so you're getting all of those added minerals like zinc and calcium in what would be effectively 'empty space' in a similar product from another brand. This is a non-foaming formula with Hungarian mud to clarify but also cocoa butter and fatty alcohol so it's really moisturising at the same time. It also has peppermint; I personally like that refreshing little tingle, but it might not be so good for sensitive skin.
Next, we have the Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator | £35. This one has over 100 reviews feeding into that full-marks rating and comes highly recommended by Caroline Hirons, but I'm sorry: I'll have to disagree with y'all. *Cue horrified gasps!* This actually has some decent ingredients like licorice (for skin-brightening), jojoba, hemp, sea buckthorn and marula oils (for moisture), Vitamin E (for soothing nourishment) and calming calendula. Plus a load of fragrant botanical extracts, but I'm not mad at that. I just found this ok... it was nice, it was fine, it hydrated my skin (without doing the whole TEWL thing face mists can sometimes cause - discussed here in depth). I just didn't go weak at the knees for it. If I want a mist that gives additional benefits, I prefer Zelens or Allies of Skin, if I want one that smells nice and feels good then Pixi is cheaper. A 'use it up' rather than a 'pass it on' but not a repurchase...
Now let's get into the Glow Recipe BHA + PHA Pore-Tight Toner | £31 | full review. Ignore the name; we aren't going to change the size of our pores with a topical skincare product (though you might be able to slightly improve the appearance of them). That aside: this is a fantastic exfoliating toner, firstly because it's in this really hydrating base with glycerin, hyaluronic acid, cactus extract, watermelon extract and aloe, and secondly because it's providing a multi-level exfoliation. So, BHAs can penetrate into the pores given they're oil-soluble and this allows them to clear out blemish-causing debris, whereas PHAs work on more of a surface level, gently giving softer skin and removing patches of dry skin. This has a weighty formula, and as a Korean-American brand I do think it's taken some inspiration from the essence tradition and you can absolutely apply this with your hands. It's hydrating, gives my skin glow and provides that exfoliation. My only slight negative is that it does contain fragrance, which can be ropey for some people in an exfoliating product.
We have another acid toner: the Ordinary's 7% Glycolic Acid Toning Solution | £6.80. Honestly, I really don't like this product and would use the 5% or even 10% lactic from the Ordinary over this (let me know if you'd like a 'try this, not that' style post for the brand). I found this really harsh and drying on my skin and glycolic just isn't my favourite exfoliator these days; it has a small molecular size that penetrates more deeply into the skin and can cause irritation. I wouldn't go over 5% these days in a glycolic toner, personally. Also, this has quite a long INCI list for the Ordinary and does contain some plant extracts that could be irritating for some; I don't have a huge issue with these things, but I guess there a lot of people who go to this brand for simplicity and ingredients that aren't potentially-sensitising, so it's worth mentioning.
Moving onto treatments and serums, we have the Inkey List's Retinol Serum* | £9.99 | full review. I was really surprised this was 5-star rated based on almost 150 reviews, but then I did stop and think about it... Starting at the top, this is a serum with 1% Retistar, a patented ingredient blend containing nowhere near 1% of actual retinol, and the rest of the ingredients are moisturisers, really. It is bolstered by 0.5% granactive retinoid, which is an encapsulated form of the ingredient. I think this is fine and something I'd actually recommend for someone who has never tried retinoids before. It's gentle, it has this emollient base to counteract any potential drying effect of the retinol and I did get some mild smoothing benefits with this product. It's just not enough for me, personally. I've been pounding this face with retinaldehyde every night for the past year! So, yeah: definitely a beginner product, fine for you if you're dipping your first little toe into the world of Vitamin A, but not for me.
The Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster | £37 |... This is a treatment cream that marries up azelaic acid with salicylic acid (a BHA) and brightening licorice extract. What does azelaic acid do? Well, I am doing an entire blog post on it, but as a TL;DR it's an amazing ingredient for redness / rosacea, acne and any inflammation, including pigmentation issues like melasma. Although I don't have spot-prone skin, I usually have a couple of little ones knocking about and my skin can flare up at a specific point in my cycle when my hormones must throw things off-balance. Occasionally I get redness and irritation and definitely have felt like my skin hasn't been quite 'right' in terms of inflammation since I had COVID last month. However this has been amazing to throw in a few times a week; I love the creamy, non-drying consistency and it calms and clears my skin with no irritation. It's a little pricey for the amount of product in here, but if you occasionally get flare-ups in any of the aforementioned departments then definitely give this a go. I think it's worth the hype.
My final more treatment-y product to bridge us over to moisturisers is the Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil* | £61 | full review. This has gone up in price a little since I first bought this product over a year ago, but I would still repurchase it, even though I was gifted this specific bottle here. Biossance are all about squalane, a plant-derived skin-similar oil, which they actually extract from sugar cane as it's considered more sustainable than the usual source (olives). It's light and isn't something that's going to be comedogenic for the vast, vast majority. This is a super-simple formula that also contains rose extract (this is fragrant, if you're sensitive to that) and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. This is an oil-soluble derivative of Vitamin C that's not quite as proven in terms of stimulating collagen production in the skin or providing antioxidant benefits, but it can still help with uneven pigmentation and giving the skin that glow boost. Plus, it's less irritating and unstable. You can use this in the AM or the PM for a gentle boost of moisture, glow and clarity. It won't be for everyone, if you want treatment-driven results for the price there are better options, but if you find pure-form ascorbic acid a bit much to use on the daily: this is a lovely product that works.
Moisturisers. Or a moisturiser: the Nue Co Barrier Culture Moisturiser | £45. This moisturiser is formulated with prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics; I will definitely get into this in a little more depth at a later date, but effectively they help balance the good bacteria that lives on your skin to help contribute towards a healthy, functioning skin barrier. What does that mean? Less irritation, less dehydration and less redness. In addition, this is formulated with squalane and ceramides to replenish, soften and moisturise the skin, cica and calendula soothe, and niacinamide is a multi-tasker, helping to balance oil production in the skin but also helping with skin barrier function. It's all killer, no filler, will suit most sensitive skin types and really does get things back on track when they're dry, dull or irritated. Best of all, it's in a light lotion formula that will work for most skin types in need of some TLC. I feel this is a bit of an under-the-radar hit; it has all of these amazing reviews but I never really see it spoken about. However, I definitely recommend getting on it, especially as we head towards seasonal changes.
Rounding things off, we have the Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask* | £42 | full review. I guess it's a spoiler that this is my second tub after originally managing to order it before the brand was widely accessible in the UK. I rarely make time in my life for sleeping masks (I'm more of a moisturiser + oil kind of gal) but this has remained something I throw in once a week for that super-soft skin the next day. This is formulated with panthenol and hyaluronic acid for that calming hydration, there's some Vitamin C (I'm not sure how beneficial it will be in this form, concentration and packaging, but it's in there!), Vitamin E, sunflower seed oil and antioxidant plant extracts. It's perfect as an overnight pick-me-up for dull, lacklustre skin.
Have you tried any of these? Have any 5-star rated products let you down? Which were worth the hype for you?