SKINCARE

All About Sunscreens

March 14, 2015

I have been road testing a lot of sunscreens in recent years, and in this post it covers some of my absolute favorites. As we all know, there are two different types of UVS – the UVA and UVB . What you probably aren’t aware is that UVB rays can burn the skin, whereas what we women really have to watch out for on a daily basis is the UVA rays that causes aging and pigmentation. SPF is only for blocking UVB. In most western brands, if the sunscreen also protects you from UVA it is indicated by the word “Broad Spectrum”, however how much coverage it provides is unknown. I personally prefer the Asian standard of labeling for UVA protection as it is denoted by the PA+. The more plus signs there are, the better job it does for blocking UVA which is valuable information for those who are sensitive to the sun.

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1. Estee Lauder CyberWhite HD Advanced Brightening UV Protector SPF 50 PA+++: My top favorite and I would repurchase it over and over. It has all the protection I need, and the texture is like a lightweight gel cream that feels invisible and hydrating on the skin. It is neither greasy nor drying. And unlike other gel sunscreens, this one does not flake up and sits well under makeup. Highly recommend! (Asia version here)

2. DIOR DIORSNOW White Reveal UV Protection SPF 50 PA+++: It’s a sunscreen with moisturizing and brightening ingredients, so it doubles up as a makeup primer as it helps to brighten up and even out the skin tone. The texture feels very rich upon application – almost like a heavy moisturizer for dry skin but it absorbs into the skin after a few minutes without the oily residue, leaving your skin supple and slightly dewy. A lot of my friends who have dry skin really love this sunscreen because of the dewy finish. (Asia version here)

3. Lunasol Control Essence UV SPF34 PA+++ : It feels just as good as the Estee Lauder -very lightweight, and has a luxurious serum-like lotion texture that feels refreshing and hydrating on the skin without changing the skin color. I would rate this one as my second favorite because it has a lower SPF.

4. BECCA Mineral SPF30 Face and Body Sunscreen: This is a mineral sunscreen so it is better for sensitive as well as acne prone skin types, and more importantly, they become effective immediately upon application as opposed to the classic sunscreens that should be applied at least 20 minutes before exposure to the sun. The texture of this is lovely – it is creamy but non greasy, feels refreshing on the face but it might leave a white cast if your skin tone is darker than NC30.

5. ORBIS UV Cut Sunscreen FACE SPF34 PA+++ – A Japanese drugstore brand and their UV CUT line that is highly raved about and just blows the western drugstore sunscreens out of the water. This is a mineral sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It has a watery milky lotion texture with more than 80% moisturizing ingredients that just melts into your skin and prevents oxidization. It sets immediately to a semi-matte finish without feeling drying nor powdery. I love using this one on days I don’t wear makeup, as it is tinted with a pale beige color that makes the complexion look really fresh and clean. My top pick for an affordable sunscreen!

6. ORBIS UV Cut Sunscreen SUPER SPF50 PA++++:  Offers maximum protection, and the texture is very similar to the face product without the beige tint, so it can be used for both the face and the body without leaving a white cast as it goes on invisible. Since it has the highest PA protection, it is great for prevention from being tanned.

7. Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral: Another mineral sunscreen but in powder form! I thought this is a brilliant idea as I like to re-apply sun protection every few hours without having it messing up my makeup! It applies pretty much like transparent loose powder, but the brush feels coarse and it doesn’t fit into the cap so it can get messy for carrying it around.

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Swatches from left to right: Estee Lauder; Dior; Lunasol; Becca; Orbis Face; Orbis Super

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I have received many compliments on how good my skin looks lately which I cannot agree more (excuse me for not being humble lol..)! One of the reasons must be the Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment. As the name suggests, this serum will help transform your skin into good skin as if you are genetically gifted!  This product was definitely not on my radar, until I accidentally ran into two people who told me they were all using this serum and they all had really beautiful skin. So I purchased this one straight away, along with a face roller which is also reviewed in this post.

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The Sunday Riley Treatment has a milky gel texture that feels very lightweight and absorbs into your skin immediately. Unfortunately the smell of this product is horrible (it stinks!) and it tends to linger on your skin for a short while, but I don’t really mind the natural smell of a skincare product as opposed to overly fragrant products. Like many other serums on the market, the product claims to have multiple benefits on your skin such as “radically re-plumps fine lines; creates youthful radiance and texture, and brightens“. I never believe such “miracle products” that sound too good to be true, but this product definitely proved me wrong as it delivers what it claims. Since it’s not a hydrating serum (but might be enough for those of you who have oily skin), I pair it with a rich night cream. The result is a more visibly plumped, smooth and radiant complexion overnight. I have been using this serum for about 2 months now (every morning and night), and my skin is as smooth as a baby’s bottom now, with noticeably refined texture and pore sizes. And best of all, my skin is brightened and the freckles appear to be faded. Overall I highly recommend this serum. I would say this is by far the best serum within the $100 range I have ever used. I have dry and sensitive skin, so sometimes there is a very mild sting when applying which is normal.

The ingredient list

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Another favorite product of mine is the Derma Skin Roller in 0.25 mm – it’s very affordable and effective. A derma roller has very fine needles so it feels slightly prickly when you roll it over the face (but trust me it’s not painful as I have quite a low pain tolerance). What it does is that it’s tricking your skin to believe that it’s been ‘injured’ so it helps to accelerate and stimulate your skin’s natural renewal and regeneration process, as well as boosts absorption of skincare products. If you are young, forget about this tool. At my sad old age where my skin takes months to heal an acne scar, this tool is a god-send. I use this tool about three times a week after I apply the serum. I roll it over my face multiple times, particularly paying more attention to the acne marks. Over time, my skin remains looking good consistently as the regeneration is improved, whereas it used to be good and bad. The acne marks are fading at a much quicker pace, and the overall texture is improved in conjunction with the help of the Sunday Riley Treatment.  I am also using this tool combined with the Kate Somerville Scar Dimishing Serum on the scars on my leg, and I am also seeing quite a great result! This tool also claims to improve firmness of the skin but I did not see this result.

I purchased my Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment from NAP which ships worldwide, and it’s also available at Sephora in the US. My derma roller is from a Korean brand which I bought off Ebay. The most well-known brand is this one available at AdoreBeauty.

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November Favorites

November 30, 2014

Just in time to post my favorite products for the month of November!

frontrowbeauty-november-favorite-products-1Clockwise:

- Diptyque Mimosa Candle – I love the smell of Mimosa, and when this fresh and enchanting scent is packed into a candle by the magic hands of Diptyque it’s a must have for me! I have used this one for the home all year round.

- YSL Le Tient Touche Eclat Illuminating Powder Foundation (Asia exclusive, also available in Australia) – Currently obsessed with this one. I can’t stop looking at my complexion when I dust this one on top of the foundation – it makes skin look incredibly radiant and air-brushed but so natural with a decent coverage.

- YSL Touche Eclat  Foundation -  I thought the performance of this foundation was on the average side for me (reviewed here), however when it’s used in conjunction with the Touche Eclat Powder I am more than amazed! It is currently 20% off at YSLBeauty Online.

- Gucci Cat Eye Sunglasses (Take up to 25% off use code GOBIG)- Love the subtle cat eye shape and it is extremely lightweight so I can wear this for the whole day without leaving marks along my nose bridge!

- TATCHA Deep Hydrating Lifting Mask – A luxurious paper mask that guarantees to make your skin appear more plumped and glowy.

- Becca Beach Tint Shimmer Souffle – Reviewed here.

- BEATS Mixr White – I cannot workout without music. So I rely on my BEATS Headphone to help me get through the sessions as I am hitting the gym more often now to get myself in shape before the holiday starts!

- Ipsa Premier Line Cleansing Creamy Paste – A gentle creamy and refreshing cleanser that I use in the morning. The texture reminds me of Neutrogena’s Deep Clean Cream Cleanser, but 100 times more luxurious overall.

- Bobbi Brown Smokey Nudes Eye Shadow Palette – My workhorse lately (reviewed here).

- Nars Audacious Lipsticks – I reviewed Natalie here, and went back and bought the shade Grace as I just love this new formulation. They are currently 20% off at NarsCosmeticsOnline.

 

 

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Calling it “I hate clogged pores with passion” is an understatment. Though this problem has become much better as I age (one perk about getting old!) as well as knowing what skincare products work for me, unfortunately every now and then my skin still ‘flares up’ with blackheads on my nose, and some congested pores on my cheeks and forehead due to stress, lack of sleep, and PMS. If that happens, I always reach for my “special skincare kit” that guarantees to clear them up within several days. These four hero products give the most effective result without irritating my sensitive skin, and are also great for prevention. They are the best ones I have used so far, so I must share!

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1. Clarisonic Facial Cleansing System – I have a very detailed review here. This cleansing brush tool is great for prevention and minimizing the occurrence of clogged pores. On average I use it 3 days a week as I don’t like to over exfoliate my skin.

2. Kate Somerville Intensive Exfoliating Treatment – This is the best exfoliator for congested skin. It’s a very strong and robust product  for clearing up mild cases of congested pores and smoothing skin out completely. I apply a very thin layer over the ‘rough areas’ and leave it on for a few minutes. It clears up and clarifies the congested pores by at least 50% after each use.  Since it is a very intensive treatment I wouldn’t use this as my weekly exfoliator, but this is my absolute top pick for treating blackheads/whiteheads on occasions. If you have very sensitive skin you might want to start with the Gentle Exfoliating Treatment first. For daily use I recommend TATCHA Rice Enzyme Powder for purifying the pores gently.

3. Shiseido Revital Retino Science AA Lotion – I bought this product because it has a small percentage of retinol which we all know is a dermatologist approved ingredient for treating enlarged pores. I don’t have much luck with retinol cream but I feel comfortable to use this gentle lotion frequently for hydrating and improving skin texture. This product is a treatment lotion that you use after cleansing, and followed up by other products. The texture is like runny gel and feels very hydrating on the skin which also helps to fight the aging signs.

4. Chanel Le Weekend Renewing Face Care – Chanel released a 3-step simplified skincare product this year. I have used all of them and decided to only repurchase this one. This product is marketed to be used on weekends only as it helps to resurface and renew the skin. I like this product because it contains glycolic acid complex (not sure the percentage but it’s the 4th ingredient) which is another star ingredient for treating congested pores, and it feels gentle enough for my skin. The texture is like a milky serum and it can be used to replace your usual serum and moisturizer. Using this one for 2 days in conjunction with the Shiseido retinol lotion definitely helps to noticeably unclog the pores, and gets you as close as possible to a poreless complexion.  Note that they are not recommended to be used daily, as you don’t want your skin to be too dependent on these strong ingredients especially if you are still young.

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TATCHA is one skincare brand that I have been dying to try, as I have heard nothing but great reviews about their products from the bloggers and instagrammers. When they reached out to me and asked if I was interested in trying the TATCHA Ritual Discovery Kit, I could not have been happier! After I told them my skin condition, they have recommended me the kit for Dry Skin.

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My first impression when I received the kit was how beautifully crafted the paper box is, and you can definitely re-use it for storage purposes. The box contains 4 steps of skincare products.

Step 1 is the Camellia Cleansing Oil (25ml) for purification. It is possibly the best cleansing oil I have ever used. A small pump of this product completely removes every makeup trace (even waterproof makeup), and leaves my skin feeling so clean and fresh. Unlike many other cleansing oils I have used, this one is based on Camellia and Rice Bran oil (not mineral oil) that has a delicate natural smell, and it emulsifies completely so it doesn’t leave a film on the skin, yet retains the skin’s natural moisture.

Step 2 is the Rice Enzyme Powder for polishing. There are about 10 sachets included in the kit and each sachet lasts about 3 washes. It helps to exfoliate, clarify and purify the skin effectively yet in a gentle way that can be used daily. It’s a great physical exfoliator with very fine and silky rice powder that gives your skin an instant smooth feeling for all skin types including fragile/sensitive skin. My complexion appears instantly more radiant and it doesn’t leave my skin feeling taut after use.

Step 3 is the Deep Brightening Serum (10ml) for radiance. It is a very lovely brightening serum that also provides hydration to the skin. If you have pigmentation problems and your skin is too sensitive for hydroquinone, then I highly recommend you to give this gentle serum a try. I love the milky texture, and as with all TATCHA products, it feels so soothing and luxurious on the skin which just instantly lifts up my mood. It does not cause any irritation and break-out to my skin, and I wake up with noticeably more luminous skin.

Step 4 is the Ageless Enriching Renewal Cream (10ml) for suppleness. This cream smells and feels uber luxurious and nourishing. The lightweight texture gets absorbed into the skin immediately without leaving a greasy film/touch to it.  As a heavy duty moisturizer it does a great job leaving my dry skin moisturized and supple for the whole day (also great under the makeup). Using this in conjunction with the brightening serum, my skin  appears noticeably more smooth, radiant and plumped.

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Overall the Ritual Discovery Kit allows you to get a feel for multiple TATCHA products at an affordable price (only retails for $59 at TATCHA online!). I am very pleased with my experience with the kit, as there is not a single product that I did not like. Particularly TATCHA’s signature products such as the Camellia Cleansing Oil and the Rice Enzyme Powder – you would not understand why everyone raves about them until you have tried them! I will definitely re-purchase them  in full sizes. The whole kit lasts about 3-4 weeks which is also the perfect size for traveling.

You can find TATCHA at Barneys and TATCHA.com which offers worldwide shipping.

 

 

 

 

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I tend to buy multiple products from the same range if I like one particular product, therefore I have both the YSL Youth Liberator Serum and the YSL Youth Liberator Serum Foundation. I don’t have access to 98% of my makeup at the moment as I am currently staying at my parents place, so the delay in reviewing them. On a side note, my mere 2% of beauty products is growing at a rapid pace due to the amount of packages being delivered to this new address lol!

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The YSL Youth Liberator Serum retails for US$155 in the US, and AUD$129 in Australia here. When it comes serum, I like to splurge – it’s the product that plays the utmost important role in terms of delivering  the optimum result. So to me this is a mid priced range serum that is targeting at a younger age group (20-30) who doesn’t have that many aging concerns, and just starting to incorporate mild anti aging products into their skincare regime.

This serum promises to stimulate regeneration, improves skin texture and luminosity as well as reducing the appearance of wrinkles. It has a runny oil-free lightweight elixir texture that is easily absorbed. I am almost half way through this product (I use it every morning and night), and my experience so far has been great. It hydrates, keeps your skin supple and improves absorption for other products. I have noticed it has improved the radiance and luminosity of my skin over time, as I rarely wake up with dull skin with the help of this product. It also helps the makeup to glide on effortlessly. The regeneration function of this serum is on the lower side which is what I expected to be at this price range. Unlike the regenerating serum that cost me an arm and a leg (such as this one and this one) that just transforms my skin over few days, I need to be patient with this serum to see a noticeable result for smoother texture and repairing of acne marks. Overall this is quite a good product for early anti-aging for all skin types.

 

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There is huge buzz on skincare foundation at the moment. Every high end brand has released a new foundation that contains their prestige skincare ingredients, such as the Shiseido Future Solution Radiance Foundation , or Estee Lauder Perfectionist Foundation,  and the list goes on! I for one who absolutely adore this idea – after all I have foundation on my face for at least 8 hours a day, and it’s always a bonus if it also doubles as a skincare product that protects and repairs my skin continuously.

The YSL Youth Liberator Foundation has very lightweight texture which almost feels like a gel lotion. It applies ultra smooth and silky, and melds into the skin upon application. It makes my skin appear more plumped, softer and provides a luminous satin finish that looks like your own radiance but better. The formula provides buildable sheer to medium coverage . The lasting power is about 5 to 6 hours on me,  so it’s not the greatest but I don’t mind as I actually get to use my compact foundation during the day! The formula is ideal for normal to dry skin types, but if you have combo to oily skin it tends to slip and won’t last too long.

Comparing the Liberator Foundation with the YSL Touche Eclat Foundation (reviewed here), I much prefer this as it works better on dry skin, provides easier application, and looks more  luminous in a natural way on the skin. It photographs particularly well as it gives a soft focus finish to the complexion. As a foundation that is packed with skincare ingredients, it has certainly made my complexion appear better in general (less dull, still moisturized) after having the makeup removed compared to just having a regular foundation on.

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I’ve been flat out with moving into my parent’s place for the next couple of months, so blogging can be a little challenging as I only brought the bare minimum things for myself and 5 car loads for my baby lol (as a typical mommy would do…) Anyhow today’s post is about my recent experience of IPL treatments. I have been asked by my readers about how I look after my skin so I thought I’d share my first laser treatment experience with you all which has done wonders to my skin.

To begin with, I’d like to set the record straight that this review is solely for sharing my experience with this popular laser treatment but it’s really not for encouragement. I have had freckles since I was a teen – partly genetics, partly due the harsh sun in Australia. I went through a long phase of  “I wanted to be tanned so I wouldn’t look like a typical fair Asian girl‘ and I had spent most of my weekends on the beach sun tanning or at a solarium during my teenage years. It was one crazy phase that I really regretted as I suffered from really bad sun burns and ended up with pigmentation problems.  The freckles never really bothered me (as I thought they looked quite cute) till I got pregnant and they became extremely dark, prominent and just looked terrible. Looking back some of the pictures that were taken during pregnancy, I was shocked and decided that I needed some proper treatments to get rid of these.

After a consultation with a dermatologist, I was recommended with 2-3 sessions of IPL treatments. The laser treatment itself was not as painful as I anticipated. It goes for about 15 minutes for the whole face and most of the time it felt like a rubber band snapping your face. There were some very uncomfortable moments, but they were very short lived and by the time you realized the pain it was already gone. After each treatment the face would appear quite red (like as if you had a sun burn) for hours, and it goes away by next day. It is absolutely normal to have the pigmentation appear even darker (like dark brown spots) during the first week of the treatment, and they will slowly fade away.

Results after each treatment

1st treatment: The outcome was amazing after the first treatment – it had removed about 60% of the pigmentation on my face, with the rest of the pigmentation looking more faded. After about a week, my face just looked much more clear and clean. I couldn’t be happier with the result. The downside was my skin felt extremely dry than usual during the first few weeks, and I was recommended to use biocellulose masks daily that are designed for hydrating and repairing post procedure skin. My recommendations are this one by Sarah Chapman, or this more affordable one by DHC.

2nd treatment: I went for the 2nd treatment after 8 weeks after the first one. It had removed another 20% of the pigmentation. The result wasn’t as impressive and noticeable as the first one, but it was expected as most clients benefit the most from the first treatment, and any subsequent treatments were more for maintenance purposes.

3rd treatment: Unfortunately there was no change after this compared to the 2nd one, so the money was wasted this time around… I was advised that this is the best result I would get from the IPL treatments, and I should stop from here. Some clients would still get some improvement from the laser depending on the skin condition, as for me I am still left with some pigmentation that was caused genetically so there is nothing the IPL can do.

Overall I am very pleased with the total outcome as it has cleared about 70% of the pigmentation, with the rest looking faded. Though my face is still not flawless as I would hope for, but the removal has made such a huge difference in how clear my complexion looks. I am happy with this drastic improvement with as little as 3 sessions (2 would do actually). In my opinion they are totally worth the money, time and effort spent. Here is a comparison picture of my FOTDs – one was taken during pregnancy, one was taken recently. Note that I wore the same coverage of foundation in both pictures.

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More facts

- I did not see any changes in pore sizes, fine lines/creases, skin firmness.

- The result of the treatment doesn’t last a lifetime. The removed pigmentation will eventually come back over the next 1 to 2 years, but they will still look better than how they originally were, provided if you take very good care with sun protection. To maintain the optimum result, I was also advised to come back for at least one treatment a year.

- I was also advised to always include a brightening skincare products in my skincare regime going forward. I should look for product that contains Hydroquinone 2% such as this one or this one, or the equivalent but more gentle such as this one by Clarins, and continuous use should further improve the appearance of the pigmentation.

- Each treatment costs about $310 in Sydney. This is quite a premium price for what I paid, and I believe you can find cheaper deals if you shop around.

Have you had any type of laser done? I would love to hear your experience!

 

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The Clarisonic Aria Facial Sonic Cleansing Tool is one of my best beauty purchases this year! I am not a strong advocate for using anything “harsh” to clean the face everyday,  but a recent trip to see a dermatologist (whom I visit for my pigmentation problem developed during pregnancy) has changed my mind and recommended me this product. My question for her was ‘how do I get a poreless complexion ‘ and her answer to me was the Clarisonic and wearing sunscreen everyday. So  I rushed to my nearest store and got myself the Aria which is a relatively new model.

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Just a brief review on the machine itself – it has 3 speed settings (low, normal and high) and comes with a drying stand which is pretty handy. Compared this to MIA2 which is another very popular model, the Aria is slightly longer and looks more sleek. In terms of functionality, MIA2 has only 2 speed setting (low and normal) and does not have a drying stand. Speed low and normal are suffice to give the face a deep cleanse, and the high speed is generally used for body. I have had my Aria for about 6 months now and I have only used it to clean the body once! So if you are still contemplating as to which model to get, I would say Aria is great for having the extra drying stand, however MIA2 is just as good and more wallet friendly.

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Result

I have been using it for the past 6 months with different brush heads, and it has made a huge difference in how clear my skin looks. My biggest problem has always been skin congestion around the nose and chin areas, so the pores are quite visible. The texture on my cheeks was ok but I also got occasional pimples and blackheads.  Prior to having  the Clarisonic Aria, I had to have an extraction on the nose/chin at least every 3-4 weeks, and the congestion would slowly built up again over the next 3 weeks until my next extraction.  Since I had the Clarisonic I only needed twice so far! My complexion appears visibly more clear and the skin on my nose/chin is noticeably smoother because of less congested pores. As a result the texture and pore size are looking much more refined.

For Dry Skin

My skin is dry and thin, so I only use it on the days when I wear makeup and I don’t use this in the morning. Although there are a lot of videos and tests suggesting that device is ultra gentle by demonstrating running this device over a piece of tofu or stocking and the objects stay still during the use,  I still wouldn’t use this device twice a day. Too much friction with the skin is never a great idea in my opinion. If I am starting to feel the nose area is starting to feeling rough, then I would increase the frequency of usage only on the required area.

How I use it

The default setting for the Aria is 20 seconds for the forehead, 20 seconds for the nose and chin, and 10 seconds for each cheek. The timer setting is configurable based on different skin conditions, and I have re-adjusted to 10 seconds forehead, 30 seconds nose/chin, and 10 seconds for each cheek. Since I only use the Clarisonic once a day at max, I find 30 seconds on the nose and chin delivers the best result.

Brush Heads Reviews and Comparison

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1. The Delicate Brush Head is my favorite. It feels very gentle on the skin during use yet provides a through cleanse, and is ideal for daily use.

2. The Sensitive Brush Head is the most standard one that comes with the brush. If you have normal to oily skin this brush would be ideal, for dry and sensitive skin types I would say the delicate brush is a better option.

3. The Deep Pore Brush Head feels coarse on my skin and I won’t repurchase it. It is specifically designed for unclogging pores, however I didn’t notice it made my skin more clear than with other brush heads.

4. The Satin Precision Contour Brush Head is my second favorite and I would repurchase it again . It allows for more precise cleansing for the nose, lips or even for the eye lids as the bristles are very soft and flexible.

5. The Cashmere Brush Head (not in the picture). I don’t have this brush head with me now. It is a great brush for very dry, fragile and mature skin. I like its cashmere-like softness but I feel the Delicate Brush Head provides a more thorough cleanse, so I did not repurchase this one.

Bottom Line: I highly recommend Clarisonic sonic cleansing to anyone who has congestion problem. I have tried tons of skin care products for unclogging pores and none of them have delivered such a visible result anywhere close to this. The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (only 2 days left!) is currently offering lots of different special packages for the Clarisonics.

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