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Today we're talking about what is probably my favourite skincare brand discovery of 2022 so far: Cipher. I've spoken at length on this blog about how I think a lot of people are confusing themselves and irritating their skin by trying to layer all of these different strong actives as individual products. Cipher takes out the guesswork and streamlines your routine into a capsule collection of concern-focused products. These multi-actives are gentle on the skin and formulated so that all the ingredients work together and numerous steps are reduced down to a single product. Obviously, you are paying more for the elegance of the formulas and the fact they pack all of that good stuff into a single product. Just as a note: Cipher is an Australian brand but the prices below will be in USD. Let's dive into the formulas...
The first product is one I originally bought myself last year, loved and emptied it (for reference: delivery was reasonable and very fast with no nasty surprises on arrival!) Since then, the formula and packaging have both been revamped, so let's talk the all-new Cloud Melt Balancing Hybrid Cleanser* | $68. This is one of those multi-tasking cleansers that's great for when you're travelling. It's kind of like a creamy-gel when it comes out and it's non-foaming. Th old version melted down into more of a balm that then emulsified on contact with water, but unfortunately this new version doesn't. I tend to use it as a moisturising morning cleanse but it also works as a second cleanse in the evening because it doesn't leave behind any residue on the skin. With the old version, I could use it as a first cleanse if I wasn't wearing heavy eye makeup, however with this no longer emulsifying, I don't really use it for this any more. It does still leave my skin soft, clean and not at all stripped after use, which is why I love it so much!
In terms of ingredients, yes: it's a cleanser that will be washed off your skin, so I wouldn't rely on them to change your game entirely but there's a lot in here that's definitely nice to have! There are oil-based cleansing ingredients here so I would still use it as a one-step cleanser for lazy days when I'm wearing non-waterproof sunscreen. There are a lot of supporting ingredients that are probably what makes this so gentle and moisturising on my skin and gives that softening emollient quality. Panthenol, allantoin and bisabolol are great soothing, hydrating ingredients, there are amino acids and natural moisturising factors to support the skin barrier and prickly pear seed oil as a moisturiser. There's also gluconolactone in here, a PHA chemical exfoliant with hydrating benefits. I wouldn't class this as an exfoliating cleanser, but you might get a boost in smoothness and glow with this product too. Overall: I do still love this product, I would just love it if they made it emulsifying again so it can go back to being an all-time favourite!
Next, let's talk the C-Shield Refining Antioxidant Serum* | $95. This was pretty much my perfect 1-step morning serum. I personally like to keep my AM routine pretty simple: cleanse, maybe a mist, an antioxidant, moisturiser and sunscreen so a formula that's a little more complex is perfect for me. You don't need a separate hydrating serum, because it contains hyaluronic acid and tremella mushroom as humectants to draw water into the skin, you don't need a separate niacinamide serum to improve hyperpigmentation and boost up your skin barrier, because that's in this formula too. This serum combines ascorbyl glucoside and sodium ascorbyl phosphate: two well-established Vitamin C derivatives. The gold standard in Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, the pure form of the ingredient, but it's very unstable and has to be formulated at a low pH so can be a little irritating. However, I definitely think derivatives have their place for a gentle formula where you don't have to worry about it oxidising and becoming ineffective really quickly. I love formulas that combine more than one derivative and boost them up with other antioxidants just to ensure you're getting the most out of the formula. Alongside protecting your skin from free radical damage, Vitamin C can give it a glow-boost and also even out your skin tone. These two derivatives are bolstered by other fantastic antioxidants like algae, superoxide dismutase, white pine bark and green coffee seed. Then you're getting the barrier support with allantoin.
This comes out like a light gel-jam; it's very hydrating, it doesn't feel tacky and it doesn't pill on my skin. It's plumping but also offers my skin a lovely, healthy glow. It's just like every day is a good skin day with this product; I feel like my skin is hydrated, it looks radiant and over time it definitely had a unifying quality, with any blemish scars clearing up nicely. It's extremely gentle and I would recommend it for sensitive skin types if you're interested in getting a Vitamin C into your routine but you've had reactions to them before, or even if you're a seasoned skincare user but you just want a one-stop-shop for your hydration, antioxidant and skin-tone-unifying needs.
Moving onto the overnight treatments, let's talk about a product I've used almost every night since the start of this year: the Night Shift Holistic Tone Balancing Treatment* | $132. The reason this has been such a staple for me is: it contains so much amazing stuff but it's all stuff that's compatible with my key actives, meaning I just use this alongside them (it's a more advanced tip, though - if you're relatively new to stronger actives or have sensitive skin: I'd still probably alternate this with any other actives you want to use, at least initially). The key actives are niacinamide and a more hydrating form of azelaic acid. Niacinamide is quite unique in how it tackles hyperpigmentation: it helps prevent excess melanin transfer, which essentially means that if you often get breakouts where the scar ends up larger than the original spot, this is going to help with that. Potassium azeloyl diglycinate blends azelaic acid with hydrating glycine and has a lot of the same benefits we see in the pure form. It's great for reducing the appearance of uneven skin tone, it has antioxidant properties and can improve the look of redness and rosacea. To support them, we have glycyrrhetinic acid and glabridin, which are essentially the 'active' components of licorice root extract, which is known for helping to fade dark spots. Rounding out this formula, we have alpha arbutin, an antioxidant that's excellent for helping with existing hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.
The supporting act includes hyaluronic acid, to draw water into the skin, and madecassoside, which is the active element of the extract cica, which is soothing and calming on the skin. Hemp seed is nice and nourishing and we also get a peptide for added well-aging benefits; as well as plumping and hydrating the skin, peptides can help preserve your collagen and keep your skin looking fuller for longer.
I know I've said it a million times, but you need a combination of active ingredients to make a significant dent in hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone: throwing a single-ingredient formula in without anything to assist it probably won't do the job. This formula works on the issue from multiple angles and it's incredibly gentle on the skin, as well as feeling moisturising and hydrating. Some of the ingredients used here can be iffy in terms of consistency, but this formula is light, smooth and applies like a dream! I went through a period earlier this year as I unpacked in my new home and had some work done on it, where I was stressed out, not sleeping enough and not eating very well. I got a few more breakouts than usual that were definitely a little larger than usual and I noticed that the marks left behind were pretty much completely gone within a week or two! I hadn't been great with applying lots of different products because I was just so rushed off my feet, but I could make the time to use this every night and saw a far more significant difference than when I'd intermittently been trying to incorporate several different less-complex formulas into my routine. This is an absolute standout product and if you can budget for it: I recommend just getting this as your all-in-one even skin tone weapon.
Rounding off the selection of products I tried, we have the Ctrl Z Multi-Corrective Overnight Facial* | $158. This is kind of like a gentle peel (so I use it around about three times a week) with slow-release exfoliants and plenty of supporting good stuff. I don't feel any type of sensation when I use this product but I still see amazing results. In terms of exfoliating acids, we have: mandelic acid, a gentle AHA with a large molecular size that's great for resurfacing but also specifically for treating hyperpigmentation (plus it's antibacterial properties make it great for blemish-prone skin), lactic acid (another gentle AHA) which also has some hydrating benefits, gluconolactone (a PHA) which can smooth and hydrate the skin and encapsulated salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is your BHA so it's oil-soluble and can get deep into the pores to help prevent and treat blemishes (as well as their resultant scarring).
To support their work, we have pineapple enzymes and a yeast oligopeptide. Fruit enzymes exfoliate on more of a surface level, so I wouldn't expect to see the same skin-unifying benefits that you may experience with AHAs, but they're smoothing and act as a booster for the overall formula. I couldn't find much information on the yeast oligopeptide but it sounds interesting: Cipher claim it boosts up the skin's ability to shed its own dead skin cells. There's undecylenoyl phenylalanine in here too which looks to inhibit the hormones that over-stimulate the melanocytes in the skin and cause hyperpigmentation. We also have peptides for those skin-plumping and well-ageing benefits. Madecassoside and panthenol soothe the skin, taking the edge off the exfoliants in this formula, there's a prebiotic to support the skin barrier and snow mushroom and hyaluronic acid in there for hydration. Prickly pear oil is also in the mix, which is very moisturising and replenishing for the skin.
Again, we have a perfectly-balanced formula that's effective, utilises numerous active ingredients and doesn't irritate the skin! It softens, smooths and clarifies the skin over time with zero irritation for me. This is a tiny tad tacky on the skin but it layers easily in-between my hydrating toner and my skin barrier building moisturiser. If you struggle with very high levels of ingredients like glycolic acid: this is for you!
All in all: this is a fantastic brand formulating with my ingredient wishlist in a way that's considered and engineered to ensure you get results without irritation. If I had one tiny gripe, it would only be that the writing on the packaging can rub and smudge off, which isn't great for a more premium brand. Though it's functional, and if packaging is the only thing I have an improvement for: you know it's a glowing review!
Have you tried anything from Cipher Skincare?