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Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap

I overheard a guy talking about how much he loves this stuff, so I got a bar for my father. You know how guys are about being manly. I thought it was funny. Well my father loves it. He has restocked, to make sure he never runs out.

So if you know a man who wouldn’t touch something labeled “exfoliant” with a ten-foot pole, try getting him something called “Ultimate Man.” He might even start to enjoy exfoliating.

Usually, I wouldn’t recommend a product targeted at men, because they tend to focus on marketing at the expense of product effectiveness. Meaning, it will come in a manly bottle and have a manly scent, but only God and R&D know what is actually inside it. But a bar of body soap – really, how much harm can it do? Well, as long as he doesn’t try using it on his face. It’s got pumice in it, for god’s sake!G


Olay Complete All Day UV Moisturizer Skin Shield SPF 15 for Sensitive Skin

I could write a book about all the sunscreens that I’ve hated. Most of them are Neutrogena, because their marketing is so convincing. Every time I read a box I’m convinced that it will really and truly block the sun while protecting my skin, without clogging pores or making me greasy.

Needless to say, I have thrown every bottle of Neutrogena behind the sink for making me break out.

Lies! Lies! Lies! I hate Neutrogena.

So I thought I’d try Olay for a day. I thought it would be a moisturizer with some UV protection thrown in. Instead, it was more of a sunblock with some moisturizing properties thrown in. The sunblock smell is so strong that I felt self-conscious wearing it as a daily moisturizer. I smelled like I was heading to the beach. Reeked, actually.

As a moisturizer, it was okay. I think it left me greasier than I might have been, but not terrible. And bonus points: it didn’t clog my pores up.

Final verdict: This product is useless. It’s a mediocre moisturizer, it’s too smelly to wear to the office, and the SPF is too low for a day in the sun. So what’s the point?

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser

I’m technically the wrong market for this, since it’s “for normal to oily skin types” and I’m combination to dry, with oily days. Definitely not normal, at any rate. But I had a sample, and Kiehl’s is always an interesting experience, so I gave it a spin.

Ingredients:The first three non-water ingredients are all surfactants. Meaning, three different types of soaps.  After that, almost everything is just to create the texture of the cleanser, which is an opaque, slippery, and silvery-shiny cream.

Technically, it contains no fragrance. Officially, I think, no Kiehl’s product has fragrance. It’s part of their style. But the Cosmetics Database has ingredient #2 &3, Myristic Acid & Palmitic Acid, serving as fragrances as well as a surfactants, so they may be doubling as both soap and scent.

User experience: If they are, they’re either very weak or very bad scents. One sniff at the stuff as you rub it into your nose, and you will be horrified. It stinks. This may be an amazing face wash, but when I used it, all I could think about was getting it off my face. “Yuck-yuck-yuck-yuck-gross” was my exact thought.

Also, it leaves a bit of a sheen behind. Not always a bad thing (I like it in Anthelios sunscreen), but in this case it just didn’t feel good.

Aside from that, it did a very thorough job cleansing. Probably a little too dry for my skin, but if you want it clean, this will do it.

Final verdict: I couldn’t bring myself to use this more than twice. I’m giving it away.

John Freida Frizz-Ease Curl Reviver Styling Mousse


I first tried Frizz-Ease in high school. Their sticky gel didn’t help my hair at all and scared me off their product line for a while. But this mousse completely makes up for that experience.

How I like my curls: defined but soft. Not crunchy or wet-looking. But not frizzy either.

My hair type: I have medium curls. When I pull my hair back when it’s wet, the top looks straight. But the bottom will curl into ringlets.

Ingredients: I can’t look at the ingredients without wincing. The only thing that doesn’t look awful is panthenol, a vitamin B5 moisturizer. Also, polyquarterium-45, which is the fixing agent.

I hate how things that come in a can always have lighter fluid as their main ingredients. Have you ever looked at the ingredients of those “dry shampoos”? They’re just talcum powder and lighter fluid.

The User Experience: This is a medium hold mousse – a little stronger than Structura Lotion. I tend to blob it in and err on the side of too much. The mousse will dry a little crunchy, but when it’s about 3/4 dry, I’ll run my hands over it and the crunch disappears, leaving beautifully defined curls. It lasts all day, but not overnight.

Verdict: I like. I use this almost every day.

Curlisto Systems Structura Lotion

How I like my curls: defined but soft. Not crunchy or wet-looking. But not frizzy either.

My hair type: I have medium curls. When I pull my hair back when it’s wet, the top looks straight. But the bottom will curl into ringlets.

If you have a similar hair type and hair look, consider Structura lotion.

I picked up this bottle after the best haircut of my life, at Christos 5th Avenue. I wouldn’t have gone there without a Groupon, but it was worth it. So I decided to buy the gel that my stylist put in my hair to see if I could replicate the effect.

Ingredients: For starters, there’s no alcohol, no silicones, and nothing that sounds like it’ll dry into plastic. Ingredient #3 is panthenol, a form of vitamin B5 used as a moisturizer. There’s also soy protein and almond glycerides, meaning this product uses moisturizing agents to create a natural glow.

User experience: It’s very thin, so a little bit goes a long way. I do recommend erring on the side of using too much, though, because it doesn’t make your hair hard at all. It’s worry-free hair product. You rub it through your hair and forget about it. There’s no need to check the mirror later to see if you’ve got a shower-head developing. (I air dry.)

There is one tradeoff, though. It doesn’t last forever. It gets me through the workday fine, but it won’t hold from morning to late night, and forget overnight.

Final verdict: This is one of my favorites for daily use.

La Roche-Posay Biomedic Conditioning Solution

I got this bottle free because it was nearly expired. That said, I have no plans to use it.

The Biomedic line is designed for people getting their face dermatologically corrected. Meaning, these are supposed to be gentle products for faces undergoing laser treatments, peels, and abrasions.

This is the toner of the Biomedic series, step two in skincare (after wash, before moisturize).

Ingredients: I was shocked to see that ingredient #2 (after water) was alcohol. Alcohol evaporates off your skin, giving that cooling effect people like in their products, because it feels like something is happening. But in truth, alcohol takes moisture with it when it goes, drying out your skin. If your skin is sensitive, don’t put alcohol on it! I can’t believe such an expensive product isn’t based in something more skin friendly, like witch hazel.

To balance the badness with goodness, the toner contains both glycolic acid, an AHA used to treat hyperpigmentation, and salicylic acid, a BHA used to exfoliate. Then there’s some eucalyptus leaf oil, presumably to make up for the alcohol.

User experience: This was not meant for combination to dry skin. When I brushed this over my skin with a cotton ball I felt that burning sensation I haven’t felt since I used to over-dry my skin as a teenager. That’s the alcohol. I immediately stopped.

Final verdict: If you just want a toner for your skincare regimen, use witch hazel without alcohol in it. If you want glycolic acid thrown in, I’d recommend the Proactiv toner. It has no alcohol. And it’s half the price.

I am disappointed.


AcneFree Therapeutic Sulfur Mask with Vitamin C and Copper Extract

Standard acne regimens include salicylic acid to increase skin turnover and benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria, but don’t forget sulfur, the smelly compound that dries out pimples. Any good package acne regimen should include a sulfur treatment.

I liked the AcneFree benzoyl peroxide face wash, so I bought the sulfur mask as well. Just like the face was wasn’t full-strength, neither is the sulfur mask – it’s 3.5% sulfur. Other acne kits sell up to 8% sulfur.

User experience: The directions are to make your face damp and then rub the mask in until it turns blue. There are little blue beads in the mask that break as you rub, but the closest the mask gets is greyish. I hope those beads are not important to start a reaction.

The tube says that it “cools and tightens as it absorbs excess oils and deep-cleanses clogged pores.” It tightens all right. That was what I liked least about it. It tugged at my skin, wrinkling it up like an old lady’s. Since I’m at the point in life where I’m starting to be wary of wrinkles and anything that causes them, I was not excited by this.

However, used a few times a week it seems to help.

An alternative is to use it as a spot treatment. When you’re at home alone, dab some of the mask onto your ugliest pimples and massage in for a bit. Then dab on a drop more and leave it for twenty minutes or so. The pimple should dry out, making it easier to pop, or making it more likely to shrink away overnight.


Final verdict: Not bad, but I’m still looking.