Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Advanced Kit

Firstly, if you’ve never heard of Paula’s Choice, you need to read about the brand right now.

I first became aware of Paula Begoun in my teens. Paula was known as the Cosmetics Cop and had written a book called Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me which was mentioned in various fashion magazines I read.

I never actually bought the book but always admired Paula. And now here we are in 2015 with the magic of the interwebs which means all of her genius is available online.

I’ve been a keen user of Beautypedia – the skincare and makeup review part of Paula’s website – for the better part of a year now. Naturally, I graduated from being a regular reader to an account holder then a reviewer (anyone can leave a comment about a product on Beautypedia) and eventually a customer of Paula’s Choice (she has her own makeup and skincare line which gets rave reviews of its own).

I had no idea what to buy when I first decided I was going to try out her products so I opted for the Skin Recovery Advanced Kit which contains seven full-sized products and costs around $150. Although it sounds like a lot of money, I rationalised that it was actually a pretty good deal.

The ordering process was easy peasy. I was able to track my package through her website and it arrived in a reasonable amount of time.

I’ve been using the kit for about a month now which I thought was a sufficient amount of time to get a good feel for the products.

(1) Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser

This is a creamy cleanser which you massage on to your dry face. I follow that with a wet wash cloth. It successfully removes makeup including mascara. It’s fragrance free (like all Paula’s Choice products).

My first reaction to the cleanser was that it made my hands feel squeaky clean afterwards. Not a feeling I really want in a cream cleanser. I’m sort of attempting to hydrate my skin by using a cream cleanser, not strip it of natural oils.

Ultimately I’ve decided this isn’t any better or worse than my Eucerin DermatoCLEAN Mild Cleansing Lotion which costs about a quarter of the price. I won’t be re-purchasing.

JULY UPDATE: I actually really like this now. I’ve just about used the whole bottle up and have already ordered another (larger) bottle.

(2) Skin Recovery Enriched Calming Toner

After cleansing I squirt this stuff on to a cotton pad and wipe it over my face and neck. It’s super nice and much softer than my very gentle Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion.

When I hear the word ‘toner’ I think of nasty, striping concoctions that we used as teenagers to keep zits away. Well things have changed a lot since 1990 and toners – this one in particular – are super gentle.

According to Paula’s website this stuff has “… a richer consistency than any other toner you may have tried. Its milky texture is loaded with skin-protecting antioxidants, essential lipids, cell-communicating ingredients and restorative skin-identical ingredients to leave your skin feeling silky-smooth and better able to recover from damage.” And helps “… eliminate dry, flaky skin … When used after cleansing, it helps skin restore and repair itself so it can look and act younger. It also works to remove last traces of makeup.”

I’d buy this again.

(3) Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This is the 21st century way to exfoliate – using an AHA or BHA. It’s supposed to brighten skin and get rid of dead skin cells.

If you have dry skin like me, you use an AHA. If you have oily, spotty skin, you use a BHA.

I’d buy this again. It has kind of a sticky, oddly emollient formula and can sting a bit if you get it on an open zit but I like it.

I’ve realised I have combination skin (like most people). Overall it’s pretty dry but my forehead gets oily and my whole t-zone has blackheads and visible, large pores. For that reason I’ve just ordered trial sizes of several of Paula’s BHA products which unclog and shrink pores.

JULY UPDATE:  I recently bought the full-sized 1% BHA lotion which I’m using every day. The trial-sized 2% BHA liquid was too drying for my skin. 

(4) Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum

It’s a serum. It smells nice (kind of natural and oily). It feels nice. I’ve no idea if it’s made any difference to my skin. If you’re considering buying this, I say go for it but it’s not something I’d buy again.

I remain a little skeptical about serums. I’ve tried a few and Andalou Naturals Fruit Stem Cell Revitalize Serum is my favourite so far. I think I can take them or leave them.

JUNE UPDATE: If I stop using this serum my skin doesn’t seem to look as good. I really enjoy the oily rich feel of this product. And the smell is SO natural. I’ve changed my mind. I’d buy this again.

JULY UPDATE: I’ve already bought another tube of this stuff.

(5) Skin Recovery Daily Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

This moisturizer was a total fail for me.

It feels very nice but leaves a horrible white cast on my face due to the SPF content. I have Clinique Sun Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Cream which is far superior and doesn’t make my face white. It also feels a lot more moisturizing. This product wouldn’t be anywhere near hydrating enough for me to use in winter.

Definitely not buying again.

JUNE UPDATE: I returned this to PC and exchanged it for the Moisture Boost SPF 30 and it’s WAY better. No whiteness. It’s still not my favourite sunscreen though.

JULY UPDATE: After trying out the PC Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 50 for face and body, I’ve ordered a full-sized tube.

(6) Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer

This is billed as a night cream in the instructions that come with the kit. It’s just ‘okay.’

I love the smell (fragrance free but still has a nice natural smell) but it doesn’t feel moisturizing enough. I’m the kind of gal who likes to see a bit of grease on her face after applying a cream. This stuff sinks right in and I haven’t noticed any discernible improvement.

My holy grail night cream remains Clinique’s Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer. I don’t think anything will ever beat it.

JUNE UPDATE: I’ve somehow learned to love this. It still isn’t as good as my Clinique night cream but I totally like it and would buy it again.

(7) Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask

I haven’t used this as an actual mask yet because the instructions said it could be used as an intensive night cream which is how I’ve used it so far.

It feels lovely. You can’t rub it in like a regular moisturizer though because it kind of balls up like a mask would so you absolutely need to rinse it off eventually.

Masks I can take or leave. While this feels super nice, I consider it a bit of a luxury and wouldn’t spend money on this or any other mask again.

Overall I like Paula’s Choice products. Like everything, some stuff will work well for me but not for others and vice versa.

Nothing has blown my mind yet but I will say I stopped using my Paula’s Choice stuff for a couple of days because my aunt gave me some Elemis stuff. My skin looked noticeably worse after using it so I switched right back to PC.

I have a special code which gives you $10 off your Paula’s Choice order. If you’re ready to buy a Paula’s Choice product, use this link.

Elemis skincare products

There are two people in my life who hand off makeup and skincare freebies to me: my mum and my Auntie Karen.

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of an exceptional skincare haul this past weekend courtesy of Karen.

Thank you Karen!

GOSH Giant Blush

Above: GOSH Giant Blush in a goddamn stick

I decided that this summer I wanted to wear cream blusher.

I recently bought MAC’s Face and Body Foundation which is more like a tinted moisturizer and looks very ‘skin-like.’

I didn’t really want to be adding pink powder to my face. I didn’t like the idea of sweating in it.

And so I set about searching online for the best cream blush.

I picked up NYX Rouge Cream Blush on Friday because it was recommended by Paula’s Choice – it even made her ‘Best of the Best’ list – and it’s fairly inexpensive (around $11 CA).

After wearing it for the first time yesterday, I noticed it had completely vanished by the end of the day. Not particularly helpful.

And so my hunt for the best cream blush began.

My number one criteria was that it had to be long-lasting. Preferably waterproof. It couldn’t be a stick or a stain (too awkward to apply).

I tried to find a good drugstore product and Revlon’s Cream Blush was repeatedly mentioned but I didn’t like the limited colour selection.

Many Google search pages and blog reviews later, I had narrowed it down to four:

(1) Le Blush Crème de Chanel
(2) Makeup Forever HD Blush
(3) Laura Mercier Crème Cheek Colour
(4) Bourjois Cream Blush

The first three are ridiculously expensive (I’m not even going to include the prices here because I’m so ashamed). Suffice to say, I was willing to shell out a small fortune if it meant the blush stayed put.

I got to the store and headed straight for the Chanel counter. I was pretty sure this was the one coming home with me.

Chanel Cream blush Chamade


I was told by the sales assistant that this blush was being discontinued and replaced by a stick version. I swatched some on the back of my hand and told her I was off to Sephora to look at two others on my list.

Sephora didn’t have the Laura Mercier one. I didn’t think they would because it’s not listed on their website. And I didn’t like the Makeup Forever blush. It rubbed off pretty easily after I’d let it ‘set’ for a while and I wasn’t super keen on the colour range.

I swatched a bunch of other products not on my list, none of which I liked apart from BECCA’s Beach Tint which is indeed waterproof. But it comes in a goddamn tube! I don’t want a goddamn tube. This tint is tenacious stuff though. After wiping everything off the back of my hand, the BECCA tint didn’t budge.

Still, I wasn’t sold on it.

The only other product that didn’t budge was the Chanel one. Which made my decision pretty easy … that Chanel baby is coming home with me. How often do I buy blush anyway? Once every few years. Who cares if they’re discontinuing it.

But when I got back to the Chanel counter, the lady told me they’d sold the last one. My dream was crushed.

By now, I was determined to get a fucking cream blush so I went to Shoppers Drug Mart. I looked at all the brands, including the Revlon Blush which I naughtily stuck my finger into (no tester available) and discovered it was shit anyway.

Finally the only blush which didn’t wipe off easily was GOSH Giant Blush which comes in a goddamn stick. So I bought it.

I’ll let you know how it wears.

Do you use a cream blush? Got any favourites?

UPDATE: After wearing it all day yesterday (and having a total #blushfail because I put too much on) I can confirm this stuff stays on well. Today I dabbed a bit on my finger and patted it on to my cheeks. This worked much better. I look like less of a clueless moron.

Loreal MAC Marcelle lip liner pencils Boldly Bare Pebble Coral Mauve

Above from left: MAC Boldly Bare; Marcelle Pebble; L’Oréal Infallible Coral; L’Oréal Infallible Mauve

Since writing about my summer lipstick change I’ve become somewhat obsessed about finding the perfect lip-coloured lip pencil.

Let me back up a bit here.

I thought that lip balm or gloss was the way to go during the summer months so, as I wrote in the link above, I splurged on three lip products and figured I was done.

But I wasn’t.

Turns out I’m not a super big fan of gloss or balm on their own anymore. I have to be careful about the colour bleeding for a start.

My biggest gripe, however, is wear-time.

Glosses and balms just don’t last very long unless you’re using one of those dual products which comes with a balm and a colour (such as Cover Girl Outlast All-Day Lipcolour which I hated).

I remembered I had Estée Lauder’s Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lip Pencil in Rose. So I put that on first (all over my lips), stuck one of the balms or glosses over the top and blotted. THAT is my magic combination.

The Estée Lauder lip pencil is the absolute best lip pencil on the planet. I’ve been through three of them. I’m not sure they’d be to everyone’s liking though. They last ages and have a matte finish but you have to be careful or you get lip pencil crumbs everywhere. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

At $25 it’s a pricey pencil. And it tends to need a lot of sharpening. So I knew I had to sleuth out some cheaper alternatives.

There’s a fine line between nude and lip-coloured shades though and my search (both online and in-store) turned up lots of brown and beige.

My perfect ‘lip-coloured’ pencil is just the right mix of brown and pink.

As it turns out, my favourite find is MAC’s Boldly Bare which clocks in at $19 CA so I’m not really saving any money. It’s just a great pencil to wear underneath other stuff. On its own it’s a bit too ‘nude’ for me.

My favourite drugstore finds so far are:

1. L’Oréal’s Infallible Never Fail Lip Liner in Mauve and Coral (two separate shades)
2. Marcelle’s Waterproof Lip Definition Crayon in Pebble

I find the formula for both of these to be very similar to Estée Lauder’s Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lip Pencil and they wear equally as long but cost a lot less.


For ages, lots of vloggers have been on about the Beauty Blender sponge.

I’ve always applied concealer and foundation with a small wedge sponge. The Beauty Blender looked so big and weird to me that I had no desire to try it out.

You hear lots of advice about how to apply foundation and concealer. Many makeup artists and cosmetics brands recommend a brush. Which I’ve tried. Y’know, a proper foundation brush and stuff and it always looked awful.

I figured my skin was just past it and I was getting old and could no longer wear liquid foundation. It sank into pores and creases and made me feel ugly so I stuck to powder.


I got sucked in by the marketing hype, dolled out $26 (FOR A SPONGE! Do you know how many little wedge sponges I can buy for $26?).

I picked up the Beauty Blender from Sephora. It looked cute but totally unimpressive. I was absolutely prepared to be disappointed.

You run the sponge under water, squeezing it until the sponge inflates in size. Then squeeze out the water and blot with paper towel and it’s ready to use.

I stick a bit of concealer on the back of my hand and dab it under my eyes with my fingers then I grab the Beauty Blender and bounce it over the concealer.

The result is flawless!

Not only that, you can use the Beauty Blender to apply your powder too and it looks AMAZING. Yes, with a damp sponge. Never use it dry.

You NEED one of these things.

But beware … there are hundreds of supposed ‘dupes’ available in the drugstore and supermarket. Don’t be fooled by them. They might be half the price but they’re nowhere near as good.

After watching a ton of YouTube videos and reading blog posts, it looks like the Real Techniques Miracle Foundation Sponge is as close to the original Beauty Blender as you’re gonna get. So, obviously, I bought one of those too.


The Real Techniques sponge is less than $10 at Walmart and performs beautifully too. Same method: run under water, squeeze, blot, go.

I’ve now thrown out all of my little wedge sponges. I’m SO glad I bought the Beauty Blender. It’s entirely changed how I feel about my skin.


Above: OPI Kiss Me or Elf – a rich purple-pink shimmer

I have a long ‘wish list’ of nail polish. It’s embarrassing how long it is. I have the list in an unpublished post on this blog so you’ll get to see it one of these days.

Included in that list are many nail polishes that aren’t widely available in the shops because they were part of a seasonal line from several years ago.

Yes, I can get them online but I don’t fancy paying a silly amount for them. So I live in the hope I’ll somehow magically come across them.

Well, today I felt a little bit of that magic.

I was out of shower gel and I like to go to Marshall’s or Winners (UK readers: these stores are exactly like TK Maxx) and buy a mammoth-sized bottle at a discounted price.

Off I trotted to Marshall’s beauty section only to discover a whole shelf of (mostly) OPI polishes.

I usually check out Marshall’s and Winners a couple of times a month because their stock changes constantly. And Marshall’s nail polish selection – up until today – had been pretty thin on the ground.

I’m fairly certain I let out an audible squeal when I spotted OPI Visions of Love (photos coming soon – a beautiful, deep red-brown).

And sitting a few bottles away was OPI Kiss Me or Elf. Another colour I have on my list but have never seen in stores. Both bottles $8 each.

Joy oh joy!

And to compensate for the unexpected spending, I found me a body wash for $3.


(Husband not as delighted as me.)


Along with my lipstick changes I usually switch to a much lighter face powder in summer.

My absolute holy grail face powder is Lancôme’s Translucence powder but I find it a tinsy bit heavy during the summer months.

I ride my bike a lot and I sweat a lot. I don’t like the feeling of makeup on my sweaty face. My go-to alternative powder has been MAC Blot Powder but I felt like a change this year. My blot powder hit pan long ago and ran out so I went on the hunt for something new.

While I was in Superstore buying groceries I happened to spend an inordinate amount of time in their beauty section. They have a nail bar and a mascara bar and SO MANY NAIL POLISHES I almost hyperventilated.

They also have the fabulous Joe Fresh brand which includes a deliciously designed skincare and cosmetics line (coming to Shoppers Drug Mart in spring 2016 apparently).

After tapping away on my phone to find reviews of their translucent loose powder I came across a recommendation on the Beauty Editor blog which was good enough for me. So was the price tag. $8.

The Joe Fresh loose powder is lovely. If you’re looking for a powder to wear over foundation or on its own, this is a great choice. It doesn’t give a lot of coverage but it sits on the skin beautifully.


It comes in a small pot but it has a nice lid which packs everything down to stop you making a mess. And you don’t need to use much.


I prefer to carry around a pressed powder rather than loose so I also picked up Revlon’s Nearly Naked Pressed Powder ($16 CA plus tax) and am equally in love with the finish.

The Revlon powder comes with a crappy little puff which I’d toss out if I were you. I used a big powder brush to apply mine. But I’m also going to dig out a round sponge.


The Revlon packaging is rectangular and an absolute bitch to open. Even getting the sticky plastic label off the box was hard and left a tacky residue. BUT the powder itself is fantastic. Exactly what I was looking for.

Just like the Joe Fresh powder, the result is elegant. Not cakey or powdery. Coverage is sheer. I got the colour Light 020.

Papa Don’t Preach from True Blue.

A little throwback for ya today.

I do like this song although it’s not one of my absolute favourites. It’s the video that always got me. I loved Madge’s hair and her wobbly boobs in the dance bits. I thought she looked SO classy. And still do.

• • •

Wanna know what the heck this ‘Madonna Friday’ thing is all about? Well let me tell you.

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum Indeed Laboratories Hydraluron Moisture Serum Andalou Naturals Fruit Stem Cell Revitalize Serum

Are my serums destined for the great skincare #fail graveyard in the sky?

Sometime last year I headed off to Shoppers Drug Mart to get me some new moisturizer.

I was all set on which one I was gonna buy until the sales assistant started talking to me about serums.

Specifically that yes, I could buy this $30 moisturizer but if I wanted more hydration I should also get this serum.

My automatic reaction was: NO WAY! Why on earth would I buy a good moisturizer only to have to supplement it with something else? Can’t they just chuck all the ingredients together in one product?

Then I did lots of reading about skincare. And this whole serum thing kept cropping up.

According to Ni’Kita Wilson, cosmetic chemist and vice president of research and innovation at Englewood Lab (quoted in this article on WebMD):

The beauty of a serum is that most of the fluid is eliminated. What you’re left with is a high concentration of active ingredients. They’re the true workhorses of any product line.

Even my skincare/makeup superhero Paula Begoun calls them the “anti-aging superstars of your skincare routine.”

Well fuck.

So I caved and bought my first serum. A really bloody expensive serum. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I practically had heart palpitations when I paid for it.

But this really bloody expensive serum must be really bloody good, right?

Well, I’ve noticed zero difference since I’ve been using a serum.

Maybe the goodness is happening on a cellular level. Maybe things are happening that I just can’t see.

Oh, look. I know some of you will be reading this post saying, “I could have told you that from the beginning Liz. This is merely a marketing gimmick just like the BB and CC cream thing. It’s all in the name of getting you to buy more product. You would have saved yourself a small fortune if only you’d realised this OBVIOUS fact.”

My solution? Buy a cheaper serum, of course.

I’ve tried these serums so far.

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum

The Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum has a slight fragrance and feels smooth to apply. When I’ve finished rubbing it in, it has an almost powder-like feel to it.

According to Clinique it’s supposed to diminish lines and wrinkles; firm and lift skin; reduce dark spots; even skin tone; and improve radiance and texture.

After using this for about a month I can say with confidence that none of these things has occurred. I have descernible dark spots on my face and they look exactly the same.

I have fine lines (which I’m cool with) and they’re still there.

I won’t be buying this again.

Indeed Laboratories Hydraluron Moisture Serum

I read great things about Hydraluron Moisture Serum ages ago and had been keeping an eye out for it when it turned up in Shoppers Drug Mart about three weeks ago.

I was so excited that I bought it on the spot.

Indeed Laboratories say this stuff is supposed to reinforce skin’s natural short and long term moisturisation; plump up skin tissue to restore elasticity and firmness; reduce skin roughness and provide a soft, smooth and silky texture to the skin; and boost the action of your moisturiser by stimulating cell turnover resulting in an improved absorption of active ingredients to the skin.

When I got home, I looked it up on Paula’s Choice and was disappointed to see she didn’t rate it very highly.

In fact, I was going to return it when I came across this post by Caroline Hirons who has a very good reputation as a skincare expert so figured I should give it a go.

Another disappointment. Despite great reviews from Caroline and this other one I read (moisturizing miracles? Really?), it’s done nothing for me.

Sure, I’ll use it up but I won’t buy it again.

Which brings us to my most recent serum purchase. And the cheapest of the three.

Andalou Naturals Fruit Stem Cell Revitalize Serum

I kept seeing the Andalou Naturals Fruit Stem Cell Revitalize Serum at my local Winners (I also saw it today at Superstore for $8 more) and finally looked it up online. Paula’s Choice gave it a great review so I bought a bottle yesterday.

Andalou say this stuff repairs cellular damage and discoloration for brighter, even skin tone and smooth texture with fewer fine lines and wrinkles.

I’m sure you’re already saying “Haven’t you learnt your lesson yet Liz? This serum stuff DOESN’T WORK.”

Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m going to give it a damn good try.

Do you use a serum? Have you noticed any positive changes to your skin? Or do you think this all a load of baloney?


I’m skeptical when it comes to super cheap makeup. And when I say super cheap, I’m talking $1.34 plus tax.

Can I just repeat that.

One dollar and thirty four cents.

That’s how much each of these mini eye shadows cost from Sally Beauty.

Last weekend I read a bunch of reviews about the Sally Girl Shadow Connecting Compacts. A lot of bloggers raved about how good they are.

Last Thursday I bought three colours: Espresso, Champagne and Mauve (shown in this order above). And I love them.

They’re a powder formula which – if you read my post about cream eye shadows – I’ve been staying away from lately because of their tendency to make my 40-year-old eyelids look crepey.

These little Sally Girl shadows are velvety soft. Not a crepey eyelid in sight! I apply mine with a small brush which I dust on the back of my hand to remove any excess before sweeping over my eyelid.

My favourite of the three by far is Mauve. I wore it to work yesterday. And although it contains shimmer, it’s subtle enough that I don’t look like I’m heading to the disco.

Wear-time was good. The colour didn’t noticeably fade. And there was virtually no creasing. You read it hear people!

I’m definitely buying more of these.

Find your nearest Sally Beauty store.


Some bloggers have mentioned that certain colours are more pigmented than others. And others, when mixed with water, will intensify. 

This post from Warpaint and Unicorns includes great swatches to give you an idea of the colour density.