I TRIED THREE CULT BEAUTY PRODUCTS + MY SKIN WILL NEVER BE THE SAME

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I generally shy away from cult beauty products unless they’re cheap (RIP Maybelline Miss Manga Mascara). I’d rather put that money toward clean beauty products with ingredients I trust. But as more women begin demanding better, nontoxic cosmetics, we’re seeing a shift in the kinds of products that gain cult status. 

While the expensive night creams filled with synthetic plumpers still sell, an increasing number of natural and clean beauty products are earning places in skincare junkies’ routines.

I am one of those skincare junkies.

Over the past year, I’ve tried three cult beauty products: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50, Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum and Eve Lom Cleanser. I used each for at least two months so I would know what was affecting my skin and how.  

If you clicked through any of the links you know that these products are expensive, so cost-per-use was equally important to me as efficacy. I don’t care how great a product is, if it’s $80 or more, it had better last me at least 4 months otherwise I can’t justify it.  

A few things to keep in mind as you read about my experience: I have sensitive skin that’s prone to cystic acne, but also quite dry. The products I like tend to stimulate cell turnover while also soothing and clearing my skin. I seek out emollient products and I don’t like matte skin; I prefer a dewy glow.

Three Cult Beauty Products And How They Changed My Skin:

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 

This iconic toner has a reputation for being harsh, but transformative when it comes to aging skin. It’s said to do everything from correct hyperpigmentation to cure cystic acne, and it was the only product the aesthetician recommended when I visited Spa Radiance in San Francisco last winter. Her glowing recommendation inspired me to try a travel size bottle when I checked out. 

When the price came up as $30 for the 1.7oz size, I reluctantly handed over my Amex. Had I known about the price beforehand, I likely would not have purchased. But I’d gotten far enough along in the sales process that my vanity got the best of me and I forked up the dough. The small bottle lasted two months.

I tried the new, reformulated version of Lotion P50, not the original P50 1970, which contains phenol. Phenol has been banned from cosmetic use in Europe and Canada, and is associated with organ problems and irritation. I don’t care how effective it is, harsh chemicals don’t align with my skincare priorities.

The newer version uses botanicals like citric acid to do the dirty work of exfoliation, which is much better for my sensitive skin. And while I wouldn’t classify it a truly clean beauty product (it contains propylene glycol), most of the ingredients are great. In fact, I was really excited about the combination of malic, lactic, and citric acids, as I’ve had great luck with all three separately. I thought using them all at once would only enhance the effect.

As the directions specify, I used a cotton pad to press the toner into my skin as opposed to sweeping it on like a normal toner. I didn’t experience a tingling sensation, but my skin did appear brighter and tighter after just one use. I got a lot of compliments on my skin over the two months I used Lotion P50, but I didn’t notice a cumulative effect as I continued to use it. On the plus side, it didn’t dry me out, irritate my skin, or cause any breakouts. 

THE VERDICT:  

I didn’t repurchase. While my skin looked slightly more youthful, I didn’t feel it changed significantly enough to justify the $90 price tag for a full-size bottle. I achieved much better results with Beautycounter’s Overnight Resurfacing Peel, which is more moderately priced. 

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Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum

I likely would never have taken the plunge and purchased this product if I hadn’t had a gift card to help cover the $185 price tag, but I’m so glad I did. This luxuriously fragrant, incredibly emollient blend of 22 plant extracts (all of which I can actually pronounce) has slowly transformed my skin over the last six months. 

And yes, I’m still using the same bottle. 

Over that time, I’ve varied my use from once nightly to both morning and night, depending on how dry my skin is. I use as the packaging directs, applying 3-5 drops (also depending on my skin’s need) with a roll-pat motion. Sometimes I use it alone, but I’ll layer a moisturizer on top if I’m particularly dry.  

Regardless of how I use it, one thing has remained constant: my skin has a lit-from-within glow that I’d previously been only able to achieve with makeup. My face looks healthy and hydrated, and I’ve seen a noticeable reduction in fine lines, an improvement in texture, and a lot less redness and irritation. In fact, my sensitive skin is behaving a lot more normally and can tolerate product changes and active ingredients more easily.

As if that wasn’t enough of an endorsement, the smell is heavenly! I look forward to inhaling its spa-like, herbal scent every evening before I apply it. It feels luxurious and relaxing, and sometimes Scott even asks for a whiff when he’s feeling stressed out. 

The only negative thing I noticed about this product (besides the price tag) was that it didn’t help with my cystic acne. While a thin layer applied directly to a cyst will help soothe surrounding irritation, it didn’t prevent or help clear my pimples. However, I’ve tried enough products to know that there’s likely no magic cure for my giant hormonal zits.  

THE VERDICT:

While the price is hard to swallow, Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum is one of the most effective products I’ve ever tried. Since I started using it, I wear less makeup and use fewer additional products. For these reasons, I will absolutely repurchase.

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Eve Lom Cleanser

It’s no secret that I love cleansing balms. They’re as powerful as they are emollient, making them the best type of cleanser for my dry, sensitive, acne-prone skin. I find that my skin “gets used to” cleansers within 3-6 months, which means I need to constantly rotate in order to keep my skin clear. 

Previously, I’ve tried cleansing balms by Neal’s Yard and Beautycounter, both of which I love. But I’d read about Eve Lom’s version and was curious, so I decided to give it a go. 

At $80, the price is comparable to the others I’d tried. It also lasts just as long  - about 4 months. Of the three cleansing balms I’ve used, it did the best job removing waterproof eye makeup, and I think the clove oil it contains may have helped keep my skin clear. It’s almost odorless and doesn’t leave a residue when wiped off with a damp muslin cloth. In the four months that I used this product, my skin felt soft and smooth after cleansing. It removed all traces of sunscreen and makeup without making my skin feel itchy or tight. 

In addition, the ingredients are pretty solid. I noticed one commenter on Sephora complained about the fact that it contains mineral oil (which they list as paraffinum liquidum), a petroleum product. While slathering fossil fuels on your face isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, mineral oil is an okay ingredient by itself. In fact, the Environmental Working Group rates it as a 1-3 on its scale of 10 for cosmetic health hazards. So while it doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies, it’s not on my list of ingredients to avoid.

THE VERDICT:  

I loved this cleansing balm….but I also loved the other two I’ve tried. Each has its individual strengths, and I particularly appreciated how effectively the Eve Lom Cleanser removed my eye makeup. It’s definitely earned a place in my rotation.