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Paula's Choice Salicylic Acid Review - The Acne Experiment

Paula's Choice Clear Regular/Extra Strength Exfoliant Review - The Acne Experiment
All Images © Crappy Candle / The Acne Experiment

I waited half a month to post this review. Was hoping the results would change retroactively? Perhaps. Whatever, no matter, I'm here now. Let's do this.

I did a Paula's Choice salicylic acid (PC SA) trial from the end of December through January, which is the longest I've tested anything consistently since I started The Acne Experiment. I went with Paula's Choice because they have a lot of options, have a money back guarantee, and seem to be aware of the standards in and the hype surrounding skincare. Think lots of evidence based product formulas, less flashy marketing, skincare buzzwords, or dewy skinned celebrity spokespeople. They also have 7 different formulas for BHA all-over daily face exfoliants, each of which is available in trial and/or sample sizes. (If you don't know what a chemical exfoliant or "BHA" is, go here.)

To minimize breakout potential, I limited this test to the two PC products with less emollient, simplified formulas. Both the extra strength and the regular strength "Clear" exfoliants are 2% salicylic acid (SA) and are silicone and paraben free. I tested them without cleanser and in conjunction with the Aztec Healing Clay. I was not using the mask daily.

Note on PC SA Exfoliants: The Clear Extra Strength and the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid are the same exact product. PC SA exfoliants are available in 1-2% SA concentrations, and as lotions, gels, and liquids. Lots of options, y'all.



  1. Cleanse face with warm water and a wash cloth. Pat dry.
  2. Put about a dime sized amount of the Clear 2% Salicylic Acid Exfoliant in the palm of your hand, then apply it evenly all over the face. 
  3. Yeah I didn't use a cotton ball. I'm a cheap bastard and I refuse to allow a wad of cotton hog my products.
  4. If you do it this way, make sure your hands are freshly cleaned otherwise you'll be spreading hand germs and hamburger grease all over your face.
  5. Do this in the mornings and at night. Reduce to once per day if dryness or irritation occurs.
  6. Optional: Apply the Aztec Clay for about 20 minutes a few times a week prior to applying the salicylic acid.


Remember how badly I wanted the Dr. Bronners to work? Multiply that by 10 because that's how much longer I was using this stuff for. We went out for a little over a month, and girl, I had blinders on the whole time.

Before & After Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliation Solution (2% Salicylic Acid)
Before & After Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliation Solution (2% Salicylic Acid)

Before & After Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliation Solution (2% Salicylic Acid)
Before & After Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliation Solution (2% Salicylic Acid)

Initially I though, oh hey, my skin is so soft! The pores on my forehead look fantastic in the mornings! I then learned that everyone's face looks better in the morning (puffiness will do that). I then thought, oh hey, the skin in-between those big ugly red marks looks super clear! The salicylic acid is totally getting in there and cleaning everything out! 

I convinced myself that I was having a problem with all the extra ingredients in the regular strength exfoliating solution and that the extra strength formula, which is simpler, would be amazing. This is the face of denial, girl.

Before & After Paula's Choice Clear Extra Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliation Solution (2% Salicylic Acid) ; "Week 3" = after 3 weeks of the regular strength formula ; "Week 4.5" = after 1.5 weeks of the extra strength formula

Before & After Paula's Choice Clear Regular Strength vs Clear Extra Strength  ; "Week 3" = after 3 weeks of the regular strength formula ; "Week 4.5" = after 1.5 weeks of the extra strength formula

It's conspicuously hidden by camera angles, but there's a red spot on the side of my nose in the after pics. It was a monster zit. I picked at it because nose zits give me flashbacks to my teen years, aka the period of my life when I first realized my nose was bigger than most of my peers' noses. I picked at it so much that I now have my very first rolling scar, and it's right on my bigger-than-my-peers nose.

My skin was not dry or tight while using either the regular or the extra strength exfoliants. I actually loved my skin tone while using them, which made it so much harder to admit it wasn't working. In all, I counted about 6 deep, angry zits from the PC SA trial, in addition to a ton of less angry zits that still left fun red marks for weeks. My lumpy forehead took a good two weeks to flatten after I stopped using this stuff. I kept at it because I thought it might not be purging, but purging is characterized by whiteheads; redness and inflamed "cystic" acne are a sign of a-no-good situation.

My face didn't like something in these products. Considering how (not) well the Aspirin experiment went, I'm inclined to think that "something" was the salicylic acid. I'd still use it as a spot treatment, but I don't think I'll be using it all over my face without exploring my options first. There are lots of other (exfoliating) fish in the sea. Until our next tango, salicylic acid.

Next Up:  St. Ives Exfoliating Pads


PS:  I'm part of the Paula's Choice refer-a-friend program; if you're thinking of to trying their products and want a discount, you can do so via this link. You'll get $10 of your order and I'll get a "store credit" on my account. In doing so, take heart in knowing that you will help me fund some fun, long-winded acne blog posts and perhaps some future nose zits as well.

Paula's Choice Salicylic Acid Review - The Acne Experiment
Paula's Choice Salicylic Acid Review - The Acne Experiment


How to Publish a Blog Post in 20 Easy Steps

How to Publish a Blog Post in 20 Easy Steps :: Crappy Candle

  1. Brain storm approximately 10 different blog post ideas.
  2. Find the idea that inspires you the most.
  3. Sit on the idea for a week to see if you still like it.
  4. Realize what an idiot you are. What a stupid dumb idea. Why are you so stupid.
  5. After a week that one idea should look less like a turd.
  6. Make some iced tea.
  7. Read other things to "research."
  8. Find/take some photos for the blog post. Images are important because people are visual.
  9. Pinterest is important. Put some swoopy fonts on those images.
  10. Write the fucking thing already.
  11. Get over yourself. Unclench your butthole. Just squeeze it out.
  12. No really, no one cares.
  13. Read through your first draft and move some stuff around so it flows better.
  14. Delete the parts that make you sound like a pretentious a-hole.
  15. Sleep on it. Really feel your pretentiousness inside your body.
  16. Read through it again and cull any potentially inflammatory or offensive language/themes.
  17. Put some of the inflammatory stuff back in. Fuck it.
  18. Ask someone to read your blog post; have them tell you what they think. 
  19. Wait for exasperated sighs and comments like "just publish the damned thing already I don't care about face wash Shay"
  20. Hit Publish.

The photo up top is me in my work space. Hello Friends. This image was also inexplicably used in the Penman's Art Journal in 1907 (?)


Male Bag: Another Letter to Leonardo DiCaprio

Bearded Leonardo DiCaprio Drawing :: Crappy Candle

Dear Leonardo DiCaprio,

As promised, I am following up to the letter I sent you in July of 2013. I said I would contact you after watching Django Unchained, but I didn't. Life happens. I'm so sorry. I was inspired to write again when I saw that article in The Atlantic about how you've turned into a risk-averse actor. I won't lie - it stung a little. I hope your majestic, ungoverned beard brings you solace.

So, Django was tidy and ordered, hm? You played a bad man, as was to be expected, but, I gotta shoot a dead horse here: how was that character different from the egotistical tyrants you played in your other films? Catch Me if You Can = egotistical boy tyrant. Revolutionary Road = egotistical man boy tyrant. Inception/Shutter Island = egotistical tyrant who is losing his mind because his wife is dead. The Aviator = egotistical tyrant who is losing his mind because of planes. The Man in the Iron Mask = egotistical actual tyrant.

I watched The Man in the Iron Mask for the first time about a week ago and I had an epiphany. The soft wilted boy that came out of the titular Iron Mask is who you really are in your heart of hearts: tender, vulnerable, and exposed. Why are you so afraid of accepting love Leonardo? You know you aren't going to find it on a yacht visiting your own collection of private islands, buried in a pile models named Anja, Sashanja, and Katanja. The Wolf of Wall Street was gratuitous in the best kind of way, but it was also a horror movie because I imagine you actually have enough money to live like that.

None of this is my business, and I really do want to keep this letter on a professional level, but you keep popping up on my lady blog websites. I don't want to see you there anymore. I want to see you on a stage, collecting Oscars, with your tender boy hands.

Let's try something, for a moment. Put your hands in mine and close your eyes. Imagine you are making a film. Imagine you aren't making it because you are getting paid obscene sums of money or because Marty is directing it. Imagine you aren't even the star. Imagine you are simply a memorable character who is hideous and maybe you have a messed up tooth that the audience thinks is going to fall out the whole time, like Jude Law in Contagion. Imagine your character is mild mannered, gentle, and tragic, like Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream. Imagine your performance is nuanced, but kind of irritating, and that you just don't care anymore, like Randy Quaid in life, probably. Now open your eyes and look at your tender hands. You are no longer holding onto mine. You are holding an Oscar. The Oscar for best supporting actor.

Oh what, that's not good enough for you? Gtf over yourself.

-- Shay Lorseyedi

PS: My offer still stands, but my rate has gone up to 30%.

PPS: I still haven't watched J. Edgar because someone deleted it from the DVR.


Do Natural AHA and BHA Alternatives Work? :: A Beginner's Guide (Part 3)

DIY/Natural Chemical Exfoliants, AHA & BHA Alternatives - Do They Work?

When I started The Acne Experiment, I stated that I wanted to create a streamlined, more natural regimen. My reasoning for this was two-fold: I wanted to use products that are safe of course, but my main focus was on the fact that holistic acne cures tend to have less ingredients in them. This makes it easier to hone in on the ingredients that are helping and those that are triggers. As fun as being an acne detective is, it can be frustrating to try and piece together what may or may not be causing problems when your face is messing with your self esteem.

While I still want all this, I realize that sometimes natural cures are not potent enough or appropriately formulated to relieve acne entirely. Not all natural "cures" (like some essential oils* and plant extracts, for example) are even safe choices for acne prone or reactive skin. I'm going to reiterate a skincare platitude I've been seeing everywhere recently: Just because it's natural, doesn't mean it's safe. Just because it's not natural, doesn't mean it's toxic. Additionally, just because it's natural, doesn't mean it can't cause break-outs; that includes anything I put in this article.

I'm happy to report, however, that many chemical exfoliants do have holistic counterparts. I'm less happy to report that some of these "natural treatments" are ineffective, while others are downright terrible for skin. If we keep in mind that AHAs are most effective under a pH of 3-4, while BHAs are best under a pH of 3, we can break down the effectiveness of each of these home remedies with science. As with any skincare, spot treat first to make sure you're not sensitive to it (I'm no doctor, people):
  1. Salicylic Acid - White Willow Bark Extract

    Salicylic Acid is derived from white willow bark, so it makes sense that people would make the mental leap to say white willow bark IS salicylic acid. White willow bark contains a substance called "salicin." Salicin is a gentle alternative to aspirin, but it is not a BHA like salicylic acid is; it does not convert to salicylic acid in water like aspirin does either. It requires enzymes in the intestines and liver to do that. ... which would be a super fun DIY!

    White willow bark/salicin does have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, so it's not a terrible choice for acne. It's just not going to exfoliate like a properly formulated BHA will. Note: White willow bark contains tannins, so if you are sensitive, don't use it.

    Technique: Steep about a tablespoon of white willow bark in 1/3 cup boiling water (the same way you would tea) for about 10 minutes. If you don't do this in a tea bag, filter out the white willow bark with a coffee filter after it's steeped. Once cooled, you'll have a simple toner that you can apply with a cotton ball. You can spruce it up with tea tree oil, jojoba oil, or ACV if you like.

  2. Malic Acid/Lactic Acid - Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

    I love this option because it is simple and natural, but still regulated, so it will give more consistent results. Raw unfiltered ACV has a pH of about 3, making it ideal for chemical exfoliation. While Bragg ACV contains about 5% acid, I'd wager most of that is acetic acid (it's vinegar, natch). I couldn't find any information about the specific concentration of malic/lactic acids in undiluted ACV, but I suspect it is fairly low. Malic acid is also a very weak AHA because of its molecule size, FYI.

    Technique: ACV can be used as a toner (leave it on for 20 minutes then rinse), in a clay mask (instructions here), and also makes a great natural conditioner (dilute it 50/50 with water). I've tried it as a hair rinse and it made my hair super soft and shiny. Be forewarned however, if you put ACV in your hair you will smell like rotting fruit until it dries; you may attract wild animals in the meantime (boy do dogs love the rot).

  3. Lactic Acid - Plain Yogurt (and other sour dairy)

    Plain yogurt has a pH of 4.0 which puts it in the right range for an effective AHA; unfortunately, it contains less than 1% lactic acid which is not ideal. Buttermilk, with a lactic acid concentration of 3-4%, is a better choice, but it's higher pH (4.5) makes less of that percentage available for exfoliation.

    Technique: If you want to give buttermilk a try, you can apply with a cotton ball, leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse it off. Plain yogurt can be used as a mask - apply for 20 minutes then rinse. Add some manuka honey for an antiseptic kick.

  4. Tartaric Acid - Cream of Tartar

    Tartaric acid is a byproduct of winemaking and a close relative to cream of tartar, aka potassium bitartrate. Cream of tartar is frequently used in baking and is considered weakened tartaric acid for that purpose. Cream of tartar is an acidic salt with a pH of 4.85, which is a touch too high for effective exfoliation. Additionally, because tartaric acid is already a weaker AHA due to it's large molecule size, I can't imagine cream of tartar would be an effective exfoliant on its own.

    Technique: You can try cream of tartar as a mask or toner by mixing it with water or ACV (or a combo of the two). I found very little on this particular ingredient online, and I haven't tried it myself, so I can't recommend specifics. Proceed with caution.

  5. Tartaric Acid/Malic Acid - Unripe Grapes

    Grapes have a pH of about 2.8-3.8, which isn't too shabby. The issue is more about the concentration of Tartaric & Malic Acids, which are found in fruits in trace amounts. Additionally, as a grape matures, their acids are replaced by glucose (sugar). Glucose is not an AHA.

    Technique: If you'd like to try unripe grapes as a face mask, mash them up, apply for 20 minutes, then rinse.

  6. Glycolic Acid - Sugar/Sugarcane

    The idea is that since glycolic acid is derived from sugarcane, that sugar by itself can be used as a DIY chemical exfoliant. Even if you disregard the fact that sugar does not contain AHAs without being processed, plain white sugar has a pH of 5.0-6.0 which is too high for exfoliation.

    Technique: If you really want to put something sweet on your face, I recommend exploring the exhilarating world of Manuka Honey. While it isn't a chemical exfoliant, manuka honey is antiseptic and a fantastic healing agent. It can be used as a spot treatment, a mask, or a cleanser. (This is the exact kind of Manuka Honey I use. It's not cheap, but it lasts forever).

  7. Glycolic Acid - Fruits (Unripe or Green Papaya, Pineapple)

    Pineapple ranges in pH from 3.20-4.00, and Papaya ranges in pH from 5.20-6.00. The "unripe" part is important because pH goes up (ie the fruit becomes less acidic) as the fruit matures. In this case, pineapple should fall in the correct range, while papaya would have to be super unripe to hit a really effective pH. As stated previously, glycolic acid is found in fruits in trace amounts.

    Papaya also contains a substance called "papain" which has exfoliation and restorative properties in it's purest form (ie processed from fruit, not directly applied from the flesh of fruit); it can also be classified as an irritant. Papaya and Pineapple also contain pantothenic acid and folic acid, but neither are AHAs. Additionally, people that are allergic to latex may also be allergic to papaya.

    Technique: If you'd like to test out green papaya or pineapple as a face mask, blend the flesh of the fruit, apply for 20 minutes, then rinse. You can also combine it with plain yogurt to get a little lactic acid boost, or with manuka honey for some antibacterial action.

  8. Citric Acid - Citrus Fruits (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit)

    I've seen this one all over the place: Rub a half of a lemon on your face to fade hyper-pigmentations! It sounds great in theory, but the reality is at home citric acid "exfoliation" is an awful idea. Lemon has a pH as low as 2 (which is actually fine from an exfoliant perspective), but it's phototoxic which means it makes your skin super sensitive to the sun (think burns and hyper-pigmentation - we're trying to get rid of those right?). Plus citric acid is not even that great of a chemical exfoliant when used on its own (it's used primarily pH adjuster). Bottom line: Citrus juice should not be applied to the skin.
The biggest issue with using DIYing an AHA or BHA is that you have very little control over concentration or potency. In the case of fruit, you're held at the whim of mother nature: fruit pH varies between the individual fruits, different varieties, and the stages of ripeness. Also, the amount of hydroxy acids in these natural options is probably not high enough to be as effective as a formulated AHA or BHA would be. This is not to say that a homemade mask or toner is not beneficial to some - there are a lot of people out there that love them. As can be said for virtually any skincare product: Regardless of what you read on the Internet, do not expect miracles.

So, meh, worst case, a DIY exfoliant could end up ineffective. Actually, scratch that, the actual worst case is skin damage, sun sensitivity, and a messed up acid mantel (the face has a pH of 5.5). Luckily, only one DIY choice listed here has a serious potential to damage skin: lemon and other citrus. Avoid those.

Out of the other seven options, the raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is my favorite for acne treatment. It may not be the best exfoliator, but I have personally seen skincare benefits from an Aztec Clay mask. I've also tried a greek yogurt mask, and while it didn't help me, it didn't hurt me either. It might be worth a shot if you've got some extra Oikos hanging around your fridge.

If you're looking for an effective, but "natural" AHA or BHA, my recommendation is to go with a holistic brand like Garden of Wisdom (GOW). I haven't tried them myself yet, but they disclose pH and percent concentration of their chemical exfoliants while offering a range of trial sized, low-ingredient exfoliants (salicylic, glycolic, lactic, and mandelic). Keep in mind that if you do go with a more natural, preservative free product, you may need to refrigerate it.


*The following are some of the essential oils & extracts that are classified as irritants and are therefore a bad choice for sensitive/reactive/acne-prone skin: thyme, oregano, clove, cinnamon, cumin, lemongrass, citrus (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, bergamot, angelica, limonene), menthol, eucalyptus, mint, peppermint, wintergreen, linalool, camphor, and lavender. (sourcesourcesource)

It's important to note that many of these fruit/plant extracts/oils are found in both natural and traditional skincare products. Even if irritation is not a concern, some products tout exfoliation abilities based on the addition of certain extracts/oils. If you're looking at labels, know that there is a difference between a plant extract and an actual alpha/beta hydroxy acids. A natural brand can rip you off the same as a traditional brand can.

PS: I'm really curious to know what "plant extracts" were in the facial that one beauty blogger received. Eeesh.

(pH source)


This is Part 3 of my 3 part series on chemical exfoliants:

Part 1:  A Beginner's Guide to AHAs & BHAs
Part 2:  10 Things to Know Before Using an AHA or BHA
Part 3:  Do Natural AHA and BHA Alternatives Work?

Do Natural AHA and BHA Alternatives Work? :: Crappy Candle
Do Natural AHA and BHA Alternatives Work? :: Crappy Candle


10 Things to Know Before Using an AHA or BHA - A Beginner's Guide (Part 2)

10 Things to Know Before Using a Chemical Exfoliant :: Crappy Candle

This is part 2 of my 3 part "Beginner's Guide to AHAs and BHAs." If you have no idea what an AHA/BHA is, head on over to Part 1 first. If you've already decided to try an AHA or BHA, good for you toots. Here are 10 things to keep in mind before using a chemical exfoliant:
  1. AHAs and BHAs can result in purging. (sorry.) Purging is characterized by small whiteheads in usual trouble spots. New inflamed cystic acne after AHA/BHA use, especially if it's not in the usual trouble spots, is probably not purging; It's probably a big angry skin tantrum. (double sorry.)

    Tip: Department store cosmetic counters and mid-high end brand retailers - like Sephora - will often provide samples if you ask for them.

    Brands that sell trial/travel sizes or "starter kits"
    : Paula's Choice (the only brand I've found that sells proper 1 use samples), MUAC (peels and trial sizes), Garden of Wisdom (trial sizes), Dermalogica, Murad (at Sephora), Peter Thomas Roth (at Sephora), Mario Badescu, Devita, Philosophy, Aveda, Proactiv, and Clinique.
  2. If an AHA or BHA isn't giving you ideal results after a month or so, it's probably time to move on to something new. Keep in mind, the active ingredient may not be the issue - you may just need a different formulation.

    Tip: Sephora and CVS accept returns on opened/used cosmetics.

    Brands that offer a 30 day (or more) money back guarantee
    : Paula's Choice, Proactiv, Perricone MD, Murad, Kiehls, Clarisonic, StriVectin, and Juice Beauty
  3. So long as your skin agrees with the product, chemical exfoliants tend to result nooice improvements in skin texture in the beginning. This is the "honeymoon" period. I'm sorry to tell you that your skin will not continue to improve at this pace and become a poreless marshmallow.

    Tip: Skin tends to look better in the morning because skin tends to be puffier in the morning, thereby "hiding" the imperfections. Wait at least an hour after you wake up to gauge your progress.
  4. After these improvements "plateau" it's important to continue using the product, otherwise you might see your thick, flakey, spotted, witch skin come back.

    Tip: Once an exfoliant is working well, you may find that backing off of the application frequency is fine. For example, if you were applying twice a day, after awhile, you may find you only need to apply once a day to maintain it. Everyone's skin is different.
  5. Be weary of the term "chemical peel." Some everyday type exfoliants are falsely marketed as a peel despite their concentration. An AHA "peel" is in the 20-30% to 70% range, while a BHA "peel" is typically between 20% and 30%.  It's always safest to have a professional or MD take care of peels, especially the really potent ones and especially if you've never done it before.

    Tip: It's natural to want to go balls-out with exfoliant: Let's kick this up 10 notches! I'm gonna make my face look like a baby butt! In reality, you may not need it. AHAs are very effective at about 10% while BHAs are great at 1-2%. You can go a little higher than this with at-home treatments, but if you push it too far you'll risk irritation, skin damage, and infection. (If you really want to do an at-home peel, read this.)
  6. Even a non-peel chemical exfoliant can be problematic for certain skin. If an AHA or BHA makes your skin red or inflamed, you're probably using it too frequently or using a too-high concentration.

    Tip: If your skin is irritated, step away from the exfoliant. Step towards the moisturizer.
  7. If your skin is really messed up and/or painful after AHA or BHA use, it might be a serious chemical burn or an allergic reaction.

    Tip: Step towards the doctor.
  8. In fact, your skin shouldn't really burn or sting after at-home exfoliant use. Keep an eye on intense tingling because that particular variety might be too strong for your skin.

    Tip: Apply the exfoliant 10 minutes after cleansing to cut down on irritation. If your skin is burning, rinse it off.
  9. Both AHAs and BHAs can improve the effectiveness of other skincare products because they "clear the way" for additional ingredients to get in there and do their thing. As a result, chemical exfoliants should be applied after cleansing, but before the application of serums, lotions, or acne spot treatments. Mild, non-alcohol toners can be applied before an exfoliant, post cleansing.

    Tip: Give AHA/BHA exfoliants 20-30 minutes to absorb before applying anything else.
  10. Chemical exfoliants dissolve the dead skin that's normally on the face, exposing that fresh new skin to the sun a bit more than it normally (as compared to that still dead-skin hide we normally have). Regardless of what you might read elsewhere, this includes both AHA & BHAs because both exfoliate the surface of the skin. It is recommended to always wear sun protection during the day, especially if you're using an exfoliant.

    Tip: Exfoliants, on their own, are not phototoxic. This doesn't mean that a phototoxic ingredient is not in the product you're using, however. When looking for a good exfoliant, avoid the following ingredients: citrus essential oils (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit, bergamont, etc), ginger, cumin.

    Retinol and certain medications are phototoxic as well, so be careful if you're using them in conjunction with an exfoliant.
I know that the thought of applying SPF to acne prone skin is scary, but it's really important to do so you don't permanently damage your skin with the fire of the sun. I myself opt for hats and hermit-like behavior unless I know I'm going to be outside all afternoon*. I cannot recommend this reckless behavior to others, especially for the fair skinned among you and especially if you're doing a high potency peel. I'm a terrible role model.


*I use Kinesys sunscreen on my face and body. It doesn't break me out, but it is quite greasy, so I usually reserve it for lake days and outdoor calisthenics. Raise your left hock. Aerate! 

This is Part 2 of my 3 part series on chemical exfoliants:

Part 1:  A Beginner's Guide to AHAs & BHAs
Part 2:  10 Things to Know Before Using an AHA or BHA
Part 3:  Do Natural AHA and BHA Alternatives Work?

10 Things to Know Before Using an AHA or BHA :: Crappy Candle
10 Things to Know Before Using an AHA or BHA :: Crappy Candle


AHAs and BHAs - A Beginner's Guide (Part 1)

A Beginner's Guide to AHAs and BHAs (Part 1) :: Crappy Candle

It's been 5 months since I kicked off The Acne Experiment; last month I started testing out more traditional products. I'll be doing review on two Paula's Choice salicylic acid exfoliators in the next few weeks, but before I get to that, I thought it would be prudent to talk a little about why I opted to try these kinds of products, and what they can do for the skin.

I chose to try formulated products because I know acne can be caused by a hell of a lot of things. Sometimes acne is caused by products you are using, other times it is caused by products you aren't using, and sometimes it's caused by something entirely unrelated (like diet, hormones, genetics, or environment). I'd be willing to wager that more often than not, it's a combination of all three of these issues. I know that for me at least, there are even zones of my face that respond to certain things better than others.

As such, simply replacing existing cleaners, moisturizers, and treatments with natural alternatives may not be enough to cure acne. Often times, more potent active ingredients are needed to make skin clear.

Enter, chemical exfoliants.

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are the two classes of chemical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliants work in a similar way to physical exfoliants (like a Clarisonic, microdermabrasion, or a face scrub) in that they remove the built-up dead skin cells to reveal new, smoother skin. Both chemical and physical exfoliation can be beneficial for acne because those dead skin cells are a component to acne formation -- when combined with sebum, they can clog pores. Exfoliation is also beneficial for anti-aging, scarring, and hyper-pigmentation, as well as other non-acne skin conditions such as keratosis pilaris or melasma. Chemical is often recommended over physical because, when applied with the proper technique and dosage, chemical tends to be gentler on the skin.

Here's how AHAs and BHAs differ:

Main Qualities of Chemical Exfoliants

AHA - Alpha Hydroxy Acid BHA - Beta Hydroxy Acid
AHAs exfoliate the surface of the skin BHAs exfoliate the surface of the skin and inside pores
AHAs are water soluble BHAs are fat/oil soluble
AHAs tend to moisturize skin BHAs tend to dry out skin
AHAs have humectant qualities BHAs have antibacterial qualities
AHAs have been shown to build collagen BHAs have been shown to reduce inflammation

BHAs are most frequently recommended for acne because it can get down into pores, while AHAs tend to be recommended for anti-aging benefits and skin texture improvements. This is not to say that AHAs are not beneficial to acne-prone skin or that BHAs are only for acne-prone skin, however. The combination of the other, non-exfoliant ingredients may determine what works best for your skin. Additionally, some AHAs are less moisturizing, and others have antibacterial qualities. There are a few fantastic AHAs, so if you're looking for something for acne, you shouldn't limit yourself to browsing one kind.

The following are the 7 chemical exfoliants you're most likely in anti-acne and anti-aging skin care products:
  • Salicylic Acid - Salicylic is the one and only BHA for skin. In skincare circles, the terms are often used interchangeably. Salicylic Acid is most effective as an all over exfoliator in 1% to 2% concentration, but can also be used at a higher % as a spot treatment. Salicylic Acid is a relative of Aspirin (be careful with those allergies, guys).  AKAs: 2-hydroxybenzoic acid, benzoic acid
    • Recommended Brands: Paula's Choice (2%), Stridex (2% - red box), Neutrogena (2% - this one contains alcohol, so I only use it sparingly as a spot treatment or to disinfect the nose part of my glasses, doncha know)
  • Glycolic Acid - Glycolic Acid is the biggie when it comes to AHAs. Most major brands that make an AHA product will use Glycolic in their formulations. It is most effective in the 8% to 10% concentrations, but as your skin adapts, you may be able to handle more potent stuff. Glycolic Acid is distinct from other AHAs because it has the smallest, simplest molecular structure. This means it is a good choice for potent acne fightin', but it is also the most likely to irritate.  AKAs: hydroxyacetic acid, hydroxyethanoic acid 
  • Lactic Acid - Lactic Acid is another popular choice of Alpha Hydroxy Acids. In my experience, I have found Lactic Acid to be very moisturizing. This is because it is a humectant (ie it attracts water). Lactic Acid is fantastic for dry skin. It is most effective in 5% to 10% concentrations.  AKAs: milk acid, hydroxypropanoic acid
    • Recommended Brands: St. Ives* (5%), if you're looking for body exfoliation, AmLactin lotion (12%) is amazing
      *2/18/15 - St. Ives Exfoliating pads have been been discontinued :( The best replacements I can find that are ONLY lactic acid are from Silk Naturals and GOW. I'll be offering more info on this when I do a proper St. Ives review in a few weeks.
  • Mandelic Acid - This is a "new kid on the block" amongst AHAs. Mandelic Acid has a molecular structure that is larger than both Lactic and Glycolic Acids, making it a gentler choice for sensitive or reactive skin; because it's so new, very little has been written about it. What we do know is that it is moderately humectant (moisturizing) and it has anti-microbial properties. Mandelic Acid is made from bitter almonds. (What the what is a bitter almond?)  AKAs: amygdalic acid, almond acid, benzeneacetic acid 
    • Recommended Brands: Garden of Wisdom (GOW has questionable preservatives, so I'd refrigerate), Makeup Artist's Choice (This one is 25% potency, which means it is technically a peel, plus it contains alcohol which is not ideal. I haven't tried it myself, but this gal has. I'd avoid if your skin is sensitive.)
  • Malic Acid - Malic acid comes from apples and unripe fruit, and is part of the reason why Raw Unflitered Apple Cider Vinegar is such a good choice for natural skincare. Malic Acid is one of the larger AHA molecules, so it's quite gentle (and frequently combined with other AHA formulations).  AKAs: Apple Acid, Fruit Acid (this is ambiguous though since citric, glycolic, and tartaric are all technically "fruit acids")
    • Recommended Brand: Bragg or Trader Joes - It's also great in hair, but it stinks while drying.
  • Citric Acid - Derived from citrus fruits, citric acid is an AHA, but is usually used in conjunction with other ingredients in good skin care products. Citric acid is used primarily as a means to adjust the pH of an AHA chemical exfoliant to their most effective level.  AKA: aciletten
  • Tartaric Acid - Tartaric acid is derived from grapes and found in wine. It is often used to adjust pH of different cosmetics & products, but can also be used as an exfoliant in the same way other fruit acids are used. Like citric acid, tartaric is a larger molecule, making it ideal to use in conjunction with other exfoliants to "pave the way" for smaller AHAs to get in there and do their thing. (source)  AKAs: threaric acid, uvic acid
A note on Paula's Choice: Paula's Choice is a very useful resource even if you don't use their products. They sell a full line of skincare/cosmetics, but they have a ton of useful articles and something called the "Beautypedia" where they analyze the ingredients and effectiveness of cosmetics from a ton of brands. This is especially exciting if you're like me and enjoy scrutinizing product labels in the middle of the isle at Target. (Almost) Everything I know about exfoliants, I learned from Paula.

If you do decide to get something from Paula's Choice and want $10 off your order, go here. I'm part of the Paula's Choice "refer-a-friend" program, which not only gives a nice discount to new customers, but gives us existing customers a little bump. Also, it means I consider you my friend (aw).


This is Part 1 of my 3 part series on chemical exfoliants:

Part 1:  A Beginner's Guide to AHAs & BHAs
Part 2:  10 Things to Know Before Using an AHA or BHA
Part 3:  Do Natural AHA and BHA Alternatives Work?

A Beginner's Guide to AHAs and BHAs (Part 1) :: Crappy Candle
A Beginner's Guide to AHAs and BHAs :: Crappy Candle


Get Ahold Of Yourself - Indecision

Get Ahold Of Yourself - Indecision

I haven't done a "Get Ahold Of Yourself" in awhile and I have been battling a bad case of choice apprehension for my entire life, so I thought it appropriate to talk a bit about it. Indecision, y'all. Let me preface this by saying I've been reading a lot of philosophy lately*, and by "a lot" I mean way more than I usually do. "Usually do" should be taken to mean none. It never occurred to me I could explore modern philosophers. Until recently, I don't think I realized that there were active, important philosophers philosophizing round these parts. The last philosophers I remember learning about formally were of the ancient variety, and my brain kind of lumped them together with Greek gods and gravity scientists.

As it turns out, there's a whole host of great thinkers out there that don't wear big white robes or have big white beards or guard the gates of heaven with big cartoon lightening bolts. I haven't even scratched the surface of all this, but I look forward to many hours of reading the same page 10 times to kind-of understand some fundamental truths in the years to come.

Philosophy y'all
Philosophy, y'all.

The two modern philosophers I'd like to touch on today are Alan Watts and Amy Poehler. You may already know Alan Watts from Spike Jonze's Her. If you haven't seen it yet, what the hell is wrong with you. It's been out for over a year and won a lot of Oscars, for shame, but Her also has a lot of cool philosophical and reality-based science fiction elements to it. It's a human film for humans. Alan Watts was one of the under appreciated philosophers of the 20th century with roots in Eastern traditions and counter culture America. He heavily influenced Jonze's film, just as he's heavily influenced my brain.

Amy Poehler is -- wait what the fuck, Amy Poehler? This Amy Poehler?

Amy Poehler's Yes Please

Yes. Amy Poehler. I'm only partway through her book Yes Please, and she's like a freaking cheerleader. A cheerleader for my soul. She offers up great, succinct advice for how we all can be better, happier people. She's such a sweetheart too.

Amy Poehler wants you to shut up.

Oh right, decisions. Thanks Amy, we're talking about decisions here. The thing about decisions, for me at least, is that they're often tied to procrastination, which is not at all what I was trying to do here, I swear. An inability or delay in making a decision is a fear of making the wrong decision, which boils down to a fear of failure. Some of this procrastination is rooted in laziness, but for even the most lazy of us, it's hard not to find an inkling of truth in this fear thing. When it comes to something as benign as choosing what I'm going to eat for dinner, I get little nibbles of fear: What if there is something better to eat? What if I don't want to eat this thing halfway through eating it??

Knowing yourself and being confident in what you want is enormously helpful in decision making. The trouble is, for a lot of people, knowing yourself and being confident are two of the hardest milestones to reach as human beings. There isn't a quick and easy cure for this; both qualities are gained by doing. The more you do, the more confident you will be, and the more experiences you have, the better you will know yourself. In the meantime, while all the decision making is going on, you'll just have to aim as best you can and fire away. Scary huh?

Here's the thing, and this is huge: We're in this together.

The world is interconnected much in the same way particles are connected in an atom, which connect further to make matter. Each individual, creature, and thing fits together to create a greater entity. Each decision we make and action we take has some kind of reaction on the whole.

Sometimes reactions are as small as the warmth from the friction created from a foot hitting the ground or the sound waves created by my fingers hitting this keyboard. Other times, decisions can have longer lasting repercussions that can impact the rest of our lives, and the lives of others. Our decisions fan out in a web from ourselves, some decisions tip out only a few millimeters, while others span miles, reaching other people and shaping other decisions we may never be aware of.

Knowing this can have a crippling effect on our ability to make choices. What if this goes terribly? What if I make the wrong choice? How many butterflies in South America will die if I mess this up? I'll buck platitudes by saying, yes, it is possible to make a "wrong" decision. We all have moments of "Whoops, shouldn't have done that." They key is to not dwell on it. What we do everyday effects who we are and what happens in the world around us, but the only way to shape that world is to act. Push ahead with your best intelligence and your best intentions, try not to make decisions out of fear or coercion, and be true to yourself or whomever you aspire to be. Each of us and all of us, as this great beating entity, create new worlds with every passing moment. It's the forward that matters, not the backward.

If that doesn't jive for you, I'll leave you with a quote by someone much smarter than me:

"In many ways when you get down to these very deep ethical problems, where there sure is no easy decision one way or the other, you must look at the problem from the point of view of the artist: which way of doing this is in some sense greater? It may be better to go off with a bang than with a whimper."  -- Alan Watts


*Let me preface this by saying I realize how pretentious I sound. I don't care though, because philosophy is tits.

Get Ahold of Yourself Indecision


Aspirin Mask Review - The Acne Experiment

Aspirin Mask Review - The Acne Experiment
All Images © Crappy Candle / The Acne Experiment

Let's get fuuuuuuud up. With drugs. We gonna take some drugs. Some hard drugs man. Some hard and nasty OTC drugs man. Some aspirin, man. Generic ass aspirin man. More than the recommended dosage aspirin man. Then we gonna pud it on our faces. Pattin it gently on our faces. 

Fud up.

The night after I wore the Aspirin mask for the first time, I woke up multiple times in a Nyquil-like state. I read somewhere that people sometimes have bad reactions to Aspirin, even if applied topically. I convinced myself I was ODing on it; it is so obvious that my body absorbed the 10 pills I mashed up and put on my face skin, causing me to trip balls. Some people might call this the power of suggestion. I call this my mutant ability: I can travel to other dimensions while I sleep. Cool, right?

So, apparently this is something that people do. They night travel to other dimensions sure, but they also put aspirin on their faces. Aspirin's active ingredient is a salicylic acid cousin. Salicylic acid is a BHA, BHAs are good for acne, and aspirin is cheap. It's a mask made in heaven.

  1. Get yourself some generic ass aspirin man.
  2. Make sure it's the normal white chalky, tab kind. Avoid anything with flavoring, and try to find something without an enteric coating. I had no luck finding non-enteric coated aspirin, so I settled for the cheapest, most basic stuff I could find at Target. 
  3. Rinse your face with water (or cleanse your face if that's your jam). Dry your face.
  4. Grab a small dish, add 8-10 tabs of aspirin.
  5. If you have the enteric coated aspirin, rinse them for a few seconds in cold water then pour it off quickly (aspirin dissolves super fast). 
  6. I have no idea if step 5 actually does anything, so don't ask.
  7. If the aspirin has not already started breaking apart, add a few drops of warm water.
  8. It should look like this:

    DIY Aspirin Mask

  9. Pat it on your face. You can't really apply it by smearing like you would a normal mask because the aspirin paste is super crumbly. Tilt your chin back to avoid it from chalking in your eyes. Aspirin burns, Gabriel.
  10. Avoid laughing, smiling or talking for about 20 minutes. The less you move around, the less it will crumble into your eyes or into your beard.

  11. Actually just rest your head gently on an elevated pillow and think of England.
  12. Rinse your face with water. You can use the mask crumble as a kind of scrub if you think your skin can tolerate it.
I tested aspirin on my face for 3 weeks. I did the aspirin mask only for one week. For the next week, I mixed the paste into my usual Aztec Healing Clay mask. I then made a kind of "aspirin toner" by soaking a bunch of aspirin tabs in water, then removing the crumble with coffee filters. I used this "astringent" in my Aztec Clay mask for the final week.


First, let me clarify what a BHA is. BHAs (beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid) and AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic or lactic acid) are both chemical exfoliants. The difference is BHAs can get down into the pores, while AHAs do not - they only exfoliate the surface of the skin. (Go here if you want to read more about chemical exfoliants.)

Second, I wanted to address the conflicting information online regarding whether aspirin can actually turn into salicylic acid. Aspirin is made of acetylsalicylic acid, a cousin of salicylic acid. Some people say, yes acetylsalicylic acid turns into salicylic acid in water, while others say, no dumbasses, acetylsalicylic acid is not salicylic acid. It can never be salicylic acid. 

My basic knowledge of chemistry told me the latter is probably not right and my connection to the Internet allowed me to consult someone much smarter than me in this area. My consult, whom I will call Dr. Laser, told me (basically) "Sorry Shay, I am more of a physicist these days. Why do you hound me with these stupid questions?" To which I said, "Please Dr. Laser. My zits, please." Dr. Laser tells me that with "85% certainty" he believes acetylsalicylic acid will yield some salicylic acid in the presence of neutral water; it will also yield some acetic acid (which is basically vinegar).

85% certainty is good enough for me, so I'm moving onto my third point: Aspirin is not 100% acetylsalicylic acid. My up&up Target brand aspirin also contains corn starch, dibasic calcium phosphate dihydrate, hypromellose, talc, and triactin. I know that talc is problematic for a lot of people with acne prone skin which is why I opted to strain out the powdered parts of while making the "aspirin toner" in the third week. I'm sure my flimsy coffee filters didn't get it all. Acetic acid will be in the final water solution as well, but considering that it's basically vinegar, I was not concerned about it.

Lastly, I have no idea what percentage salicylic acid I was putting on my face. I suppose it wouldn't matter if the aspirin had done some amazing things, but it didn't:

Aspirin Mask Before and After :: The Acne Experiment 

Aspirin Before and After :: The Acne Experiment

I really wanted this to be amazing. Aspirin so cheap, but it just ain't my jam. I noticed some increased redness and little bumps by the second week, especially on my forehead. By week 3, I had stopped using the chalky part of the aspirin on my face and started using the clay mask more regularly - I attribute both of these things to the slight improvement.

I realize my skin could have been purging (salicylic acid being a BHA and all), which is why I gave my skin a solid 3 weeks. The extra ingredients could have been problematic, and like I said the percentage of salicylic acid could have been too low or too high or something.* Some of this could even be a continued reaction to the jojoba oil (what is happening on my face, really??). As a result, I'm gonna ride this "purge" and try a proper salicylic acid skincare product next. My second bout with salicylic acid is probably going to be a longer one. Thank goodness for bangs.


* If you're curious about DIY salicylic acid and are looking into white willow bark, read this first.

Aspirin Mask Review - The Acne Experiment


Jojoba Oil Review - The Acne Experiment

Jojoba Oil Review - The Acne Experiment
All Images © Crappy Candle / The Acne Experiment

I wish you Happy Holidays, a Festive Festivus, and a Drunken New Year. My gift to you for these final days of 2014 is a review on oil. Merry Greasemas.

Oil is a really scary thing for someone like me who's already shiny faced and prone to stubborn "reactionary" acne (my skin is not shy about letting me know when it doesn't like something: silicone, alcohol, New York, whatever). I was taught from a young age that oil on oily/acne prone skin is a major no-no. What I've learned more recently is that so long as you're smart about it, and choose the right oil/method, it might not be such a she-devil.

Research I must. It is my duty.

First, I figured out that certain oils are better for oily skin because they're "drier." Oils in this category include grapeseed oil* and tea tree oil. Certain oils are super pore cloggy and should generally be avoided if you have acne. Oils in this category include coconut oil and wheat germ oil. Certain oils are considered non-comedogenic and are the most likely to not mess up acne-prone skin (this not a guarantee, of course). Oils in this category include hemp oil. Finally, certain oils aren't oils at all. "Oils" in this category include shea butter and jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is actually a wax, which is not oil apparently; more interestingly, jojoba is the "oil" that most closely matches the oil our skin produces.

So jojoba, an already low-comedogenic oil, seemed like the best choice for my very first oil experiment. I almost chose hemp oil because it's less comedogenic than jojoba, but that shit needs to be refrigerated. Fuck that.

  • Jojoba Oil (Trader Joe's)
  • Aztec Healing Clay
  • Raw, Unfiltered, Organic Apple Cider (TJoes)


Because oil is so terribly scary, I decided to test it out on my forehead only for a week before putting it all over my face. Each night, I applied a basic Aztec Healing Clay Mask, removed it, then applied a few drops of jojoba on my forehead only.

Next, I researched oil cleansing. A lot of people tout oil cleansing as a fantastic alternative to traditional cleansers. The idea is that "like dissolves like" so the oil you cleanse with will loosen up the sebum in your pores and leave you clean, refreshed, and with less acne. I found a good tutorial that involves applying the oil, rubbing it on for 10 minutes, then wiping it off with a damp washcloth. Ok, sounds simple enough. I tried it on the first day, then fell a little farther down the rabbit oil and discovered "like dissolves like" is a load of horseshit.

I slipped even further into the oil hole and discovered that oil cleansing is a fucking horror show (these are real review excerpts from Makeup Alley):

Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) Reviews :: The Acne Experiment

(cries softly)

The man takes two steps back and in a burst of flames, revealing himself to be a Balrog. "Welcome to the pits of hell, my friends. Here is a face-load of impenetrable zits."

Yeah. No oil cleansing for me. I decided to just use the jojoba as a moisturizer post Clay Mask application. About 3-4 drops was more than enough. On some days I applied and left it on, on other days, I applied, left it on for a few minutes then rinsed it off with a washcloth and water. I didn't use cleanser at all while testing the jojoba oil.


Before I get to my results, I want to comment briefly on oil cleansing (which I didn't fully test, mind you). My thoughts are as follows:

  1. I don't think oil cleansing is bad for everyone, but if you have oily skin or are acne prone it may not be worth the risk.
  2. If you do try it, for the love of all that is good and holy, use non-comedogenic or super low comedogenic oils. It seems a lot of the people having problems used coconut oil, olive oil, and/or castor oil. I know castor oil is supposed to be fantastic for ocm, but you might want to spot test it before rubbing it all over your face so vigorously.
  3. Don't put a hot washcloth on your face. It's probably not a good idea to do this regardless of whether you're oil cleansing or not (it can break capillaries and aggravate sensitive skin).
  4. Come to think of it, maybe rubbing your acne prone face for 10 minutes is a terrible idea. I know my skin does not like my fingers, and rubbing oil into it sounds plain mean. Instead, I'd just apply it like you would lotion, leave it on for 10 minutes, then wipe it off.
  5. If you start breaking out, stop using it immediately. Oil cleansing will not ever result in purging. Ever. Full Stop.
Okay, the results:

Jojoba Oil Before and After :: The Acne Experiment
Before = 2 weeks after Tea Tree Test; Forehead Test = After 1 week of applying Jojoba Oil to my forehead only;
After = After 1 week of applying Jojoba Oil to my entire face

Jojoba Oil Before and After :: The Acne Experiment
Jojoba Oil Before and After**

These were taken two weeks after the forehead jojoba test, and one week after the full-face jojoba test. I don't see much of a difference, but more importantly, I'm not really seeing nasty new acne either. There are some new spots that cropped up over the course of the test, but not enough for me to call it a full-on "break out."

My takeaway is that jojoba seems like a safe ingredient for my skin, but ultimately, I found it too damned greasy to use on its own. I don't need that much moisture on my face, but I'm not opposed to using jojoba as a spot moisturizer, eye "cream," or eye makeup remover. If I ever do start using a facial moisturizer full-face again, it's going to have to be way lighter than jojoba.

Next Up: Aspirin


*Grapeseed oil, like jojoba oil, has a 2 (out of 5) comedogenic rating. If you are trying oil and have acne-prone skin, I would probably not try grapeseed first. If you have combination or oily skin (and are not acne prone), grapeseed might be a good option for you.

**Note: I have some fat zits going on in my chin area, but considering that they showed up before I tested Jojoba on my chin, I don't attribute it to the oil. I attribute it to my old face wash that I tried using the week prior. Ugh.

PS: During the Aspirin test my forehead broke out more than usual. I'll comment on that experience in a separate review, but there is a possibility the break out was due in part to a delayed response to the jojoba oil. I'm not sure though. I don't want to put it on my forehead again anyway, so I suppose this point is moot.

Jojoba Oil Review - The Acne Experiment
Jojoba Oil on Acne-Prone Skin :: The Acne Experiment


Meow Cosmetics - Mineral Foundation Swatches

Meow Cosmetics - Mineral Foundation Swatches

If you haven't heard of them yet, allow me to introduce you to a lovely brand called Meow Cosmetics. Meow is a small, indie makeup company that makes limited ingredient mineral foundations, concealers, finishing powders, eyeshadows, and blushes that are ideal for people with problem skin.

The issue with larger manufacturers of mineral makeup (such as Bare Minerals) is that their products often contain ingredients that can be problematic for the acne folks and the sensitive skin folks (bismuth oxychloride, ain't she a sonofabitch). I used Bare Minerals for years, but divorced it when it gave me a sandpaper-like rash. I've dabbled in a few different mineral makeup brands since then (Everyday Minerals and Alima Pure), but have yet to settle.

This is the breakdown of the ingredients in each of the mineral makeup brands I've tried:

  • Bare Minerals (original): Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Bismuth Oxychloride, Mica, Iron Oxides
  • Everyday Minerals (semi-matte & matte formulas): Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides
  • Alima Pure (satin matte): Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Iron Oxides 
  • Meow Cosmetics (purrfect): Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides
    Meow Cosmetics (pampered): Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Iron Oxides
    Meow Cosmetics (flawless): Mica, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Boron Nitride, Iron Oxides

Meow, EM, and Alima all contain the same ingredients, but both Alima and EM broke me out. Meow's claim is that "all minerals are not made equally" and that many folks that are mica sensitive (which I could be) have had luck with their product. The founder of Meow states that she started the company in an attempt to create makeup that she herself could wear given her own problem skin. It seems promising. I chose to try Purrfect and Pampered formulas as this is what Meow recommends for people with finicky skin.

Before you visit their website, let me warn you: it is confusing as fuck. It looks like it was made in 1995; I expected one of those dancing babies to pop up and oogah chaka me into an early grave. Despite this, I was able to navigate the atrocious design and confusing cat-theme to choose 16 foundation samples.

Meow has by far the most shades to choose from out of all the mineral brands out there (86 in all). Finding a match looks a bit like a football playbook:

Meow Cosmetics - Mineral Foundation Swatches :: Natural Light       Meow Cosmetics - Mineral Foundation Swatches :: Natural Light (shade)

These photos were taken are outside. The first photo is in full sun, while the second is in the shade. In the first photo, it seems Mau (level 3) or Sphynx (level 3) are the best choices, but the second photo proves they are too dark/pink. Korat and Chartreux are better matches.

Allow me to decode this arm mess for you: The different cat names (Ocicat, Siamese, Sphynx, Mau, Persian, Chartreux, and Korat) refer to the different color families. The numbers (2 and 3) refer to the shades (from 0 to 6, with 6 being the darkest), while Purr and Pam refer to the two different formulas (Purrfect and Pampered). Pampered offers a little more coverage than Purrfect, but also contains an additional ingredient (Zinc Oxide). All Meow Foundations are buildable.

On the Meow website, and elsewhere online, the shades have zee sexy names: 0 - Inquisitive, 1 - Sleek, 2 - Frisky, 3 - Naughty, 4 - Fierce, 5 - Slinky, and 6 - Independent. This is also confusing as fuck, so for the sake of puny brain mush, I went with the numbers in the photos.

Meow Cosmetics - Mineral Foundation Swatches :: Indoor LightMeow Cosmetics - Mineral Foundation Swatches :: Indoor Light (blended)

These photos were taken with indoor lighting. The first is almost strictly artificial light, while the second was taken near a window after I blended my arm dots with a fluffy brush. These are all the shades shown in the photos (from top to bottom, left to right):

2-Frisky Chartreux / concealer - peach/yellow
Top Cat / finishing powder - no pigment
2-Frisky Ocicat / purrfect - olive
3-Naughty Ocicat / purrfect - olive
2-Frisky Siamese / purrfect - neutral
2-Frisky Sphynx / purrfect - beige/pink/peach
2-Frisky Sphynx / pampered - beige/pink/peach
3-Naughty Sphynx / purrfect - beige/pink/peach
3-Naughty Mau / purrfect - warm
2-Frisky Persian / purrfect - peach
2-Frisky Chartreux / purrfect - peach/yellow
2-Frisky Chartreux / pampered - peach/yellow
3-Naughty Chartreux / purrfect - peach/yellow
3-Naughty Chartreux / pampered - peach/yellow
2-Frisky Korat / purrfect - golden yellow
2-Frisky Korat / pampered - golden yellow
3-Naughty Korat / purrfect - golden yellow
3-Naughty Korat / pampered - golden yellow

Overall, Sphynx and Mau were too pink (and dark), Persian and Siamese were too light in the level I got (so who the hell knows), and Ocicat was too yellow. Korat is a touch more yellow than Chartreux and could be used in a pinch, but Chartreux (as I suspected) was the winner. It's slightly yellowish undertone would be good for balancing out the redness in my mottled face.

I'll be doing a proper "Acne Experiment" review of this makeup at a later date, but for now, oggle my sexy arm dots.

Meow Minerals Swatches :: Crappy Candle

PS: For those that are curious, I describe myself as having light to medium olive toned skin. I believe I have yellow, pink, peach, and sometimes greenish undertones. This is confusing as fuck. Sometimes it's easier to just say my undertones are neutral.

The Nars foundation in the top photo is "Santa Fe" (it's my current liquid foundation). I wore "medium beige" in Bare Minerals. I believe I matched for "beige neutral" (aka "medium 4N") and "Olive 1.5" or "Olive 2" in Alima Pure. I'll never know for certain about my shades in EM or Alima because I gave those samples away in a fit of acne rage long ago. I gave them away so violently, guys.

Natural Foundation :: Meow Minerals Swatches

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