A Truly Effective Pimple Cream and 4 Other Beauty Products I Used Till the Last Drop

Some aggressive beauty testing last month left my skin, as a facialist called it, “very confused.” (Never apply body sunscreens to your face, I tell you!) Call it an occupational hazard. As a result, a bunch of acne-fighting beauty products got star billings in my beauty routine. Here is the exfoliating toner I think works better than P50, the blemish cream that won’t destroy your skin, a Korean facial sunscreen that is the best one I’ve tried, the retinol cream Chrissy Teigen and I both can’t get enough of, and, just for fun, a fragrant body moisturizer that won’t stick to your clothes.

If Korea is considered more high-tech than the U.S. when it comes to skin care, then they’re light-years ahead when it comes to sunscreen. Christine Chang and Sarah Lee of the “natural” Korean beauty emporium Glow Recipe sent me over a bunch of Korean sunscreens and all of them beat their American counterparts in functionality and feel. My favorite of the bunch is the Goodall, a light, watery, viscous sunscreen that feels more like a skin-care product than a UV-blocking tool. Unlike most sunscreens that are oily creams that you endure because of the SPF benefits, this one has the feel of an essence you might find from a luxury skin-care company, and feels refreshing on the skin. It even feels like it’s water-based. It has a dewy (note: not oily) finish so it adds a little glow to your cheekbones.

Every time I stop using this product from the cosmetic cop Paula Begoun’s own line of products, I break out. Much like the beloved Biologique Recherche P50, this is an exfoliating toner containing acids that work to dissolve dead-skin build-up, one of the major causes of congested pores. P50 is a little too strong for me, but this is a milder, less odorous, and wallet-friendly version of “Jesus in a Bottle.” When I ran out of it about a month ago, my skin almost instantly started getting more blackheads and looking generally more dull.

As far as I’m concerned, Eve Lom Dynaspot is the only pimple cream worth using. A bout of testing facial sunscreens and PMS left me with multiple breakouts, and the subsequent heavy usage of this product. I’ve tried a lot of pimple creams over the years, many of which took a total-annihilation approach when it came to blemishes: It would kill the zit all right, but also all the surrounding skin around it. Unlike most pimple creams, this one doesn’t inflame the skin and works to dry up and shrink the pimple itself, but without making the skin around it red and flaky. It’s a less angry, more zen version of a pimple cream that’s not less effective, containing tea tree oil and salicylic acid, which calm blemishes. I think I’m on my third tube.

Shani Darden, one of the best facialists in Los Angeles, counts Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen among her clients. I learned about her from celebrity makeup artist Hung Vanngo, who called the serum one of his favorite ten products. Darden’s creamy retinol serum works without peeling or reddening, to diminish dark spots and make your skin look smoother. I use it immediately after I get a breakout and find that it fades any hyperpigmentation in just a few weeks (normally for me, it can take multiple months). It is fairly potent, so beginner retinol users should begin by using it sparingly — only a few times a week — but it’s one of the only retinols I’ve found that moisturizes and somehow, almost contradictorily, exfoliates.

For all the moisturizing attention I give my face, I am pretty lazy when it comes to my body. In fact, the only body moisturizer I’ve been able to finish is the body “milk” from Ellis Brooklyn. A watery, non-dairy fluid that’s no less hydrating than a traditional moisturizing cream, it absorbs quickly and easily into the skin so that I can forget it’s there. A quick, generous three pumps coats my entire body and leaves my skin silky but not cloying, so that I can even dress over it. The products are all made small batch upstate in New York, with beautiful, delicate scents made by perfumer Jerome Epinette, the nose behind classic scents like Byredo’s Gypsy Water. I rotate between the scents but Verb, a green figgy scent, ended up being used up first.

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