Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Lotion 10% / “AHA Souffle”

alpha hydroxy 10%

If I’ve learned any lessons in life, it is to tread very carefully with acids.

Full disclosure, I used this product when it was called AHA Souffle, and actually found that, with only semi-weekly use, it was great. I actually think it kept a lot of acne at bay, and kept my skin looking fresh. I think I used the 8% glycolic acid formulation, which seems to no longer be a percentage that they use. Then, the company Alpha Hydrox rebranded into Alpha Skincare, and re-released all their packaging.

I’m guessing during the timeframe that it took them re-brand and change up their product lines, they also reformulated as well. That was when this product stopped working for me. My skin started to break out a TON. Now, the thing to keep in mind with acids is that there is a natural purging period where you start to break out like crazy. Then, with consistent use of the acid, that won’t occur as often. So I thought that was the case with me, and I pushed through — for two months!!! — and it ended up absolutely destroying my skin.

I wasn’t really into looking at the ingredients back then so much as I am now, and looking at the listing online it doesn’t seem like there’s anything too damning that would cause it to do this. Even the alcohols in it are fatty alcohols only, and not drying. Perhaps even a 2% shift in glycolic acid was enough to destroy my skin. In any case, my opinion of this product is that it is very harsh.

Amazon cleanly states that the packaging may vary, due to the rebranding (and also an extremely confusing product listing — there’s a lot of seemingly overlapping products with totally different images). The AHA Souffle was a white cream in a tube. The tube lasted for quite awhile, since you don’t need to apply too much. Now it looks like it’s in a small bottle. Given the amount of product in this, the pricetag of $12-18 (depending on where you buy from) doesn’t seem too crazy.

I don’t know. I used to really like this. If you are suffering very mild acne or scarring, glycolic acid is good to keep some of that at bay. But I’m not convinced that this product is the method to do that anymore, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for cystic acne sufferers either. If you want to try it out, I’d recommend starting at the lowest level possible, but even 10% seems a little steep to me. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No


Skincare Routine

Happy Thursday everyone!

I thought writing about a routine would be helpful for anyone new to skincare, anyone trying to change up how and when they apply products, or anyone who just doesn’t understand where to put a new product in their current routine. I very loosely follow the Korean 10-step method, pictured above, but by no means do I ever do the full 10 steps, on any given day! (or night, because you have to do the whole thing over again at night!)

Here’s what my average day would look like, based on this routine:

1 – Makeup remover/Oil Cleanser: Various types of oil can remove makeup and “grit” (dirt from your pores) from your skin. Right off the bat, I usually skip this step, because oil cleansing has proven disastrous for me, personally. However, Pond’s Cold Cleanser does fall in this category, so if I need to remove eye makeup, that’s the first product that goes on my face. Others have had success with jojoba oil. Try out Pond’s Cold Cleanser here:

2- Water based cleanser: These are similar to soap, packaged similarly to soap — except for your face! I use Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser in the morning, and Cerave Foaming Cleanser after I get home from work, to take off my makeup. Try out Cetaphil: or Cerave:

3- Exfoliate: Exfoliators are products that turn over skin cells more quickly, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, to name a few. I only do this step at night, and only on nights where I’m using less abrasive exfoliators (Paula’s BHA, or Vitamin C serums). On nights where I use Epiduo Forte (adapalene + benzoyl peroxide), I have to apply a very thin moisturizer first. Epiduo and my skin just won’t get along otherwise! Check out Paula’s BHA here:

4 – Toner: this is usually a thin, watery “layer” that is intended to even out the size of your pores. When I remember to do it, I use Thayer’s Witch Hazel:

5- Essence: I never do this step! This is another very thin moisturizer intended to plump up your skin, and take in the heavier moisturizers more readily. I’ve tried several snail essences in the past, but I felt that it clogged up my pores. CosRX Snail Mucin 96 Power Essence is a common and well-liked essence:

6 – Treatments: If you have a skin “special need”, this is the time to apply it. If I have a bad patch of acne, I’ll apply a spot treatment of benzoyl peroxide. Another example is if you have a collagen treatment that you like to use, this is the step to use it. My favorite spot treatment is Neutrogena Benzoyl Peroxide:

7- Sheet Mask: These are paper or gel masks that you put over your entire face for 5-30 minutes. Once the time is up, you throw them out! Not a step I use anymore, sheerly out of laziness, but this was incredibly refreshing while I had cystic acne. Unfortunately, you have to decide what masks are good for your skin type, based on their primary ingredient. My favorite was My Beauty Diary – Natto mask:

8 – Eye Cream: Here’s my thought on eye cream: they’re usually the same as moisturizer. Just apply a thin layer of that moisturizer, and be careful that the moisturizer doesn’t have any abrasive properties to it, since the skin near the eye is very thin.

9 – Moisturizer: this is a medium weight to thick cream or gel that’s intended to add moisture, and hold some of what’s already there in. There are so many examples I could list here! But my favorite right now is Clinique Moisture Surge.

9.5 – Occlusives: I added a step! But this is usually where I put on anything to “lock in” extra moisturizers. I only do this step at night, before I go to sleep. Elta MD’s Intense Moisture usually does the trick:

10 – Sun Protection: the most important step! This one’s for morning only — find a sunscreen that complies well with the skin on your face. It’s Skin 2pm works best for me.


Items to Trash, Volume 1

Usually I post on Tuesdays and Saturday, but I thought I’d mix things up a little and throw in a Thursday post! This post is going to be about the stuff I’m throwing/giving away (or, I think I’m throwing away — sometimes I get cold feet and end up hanging onto them anyway). Some of these items I’ve reviewed in the past — others, I may do a review for in the future.

CosRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence – I want to love CosRX products  because their business model is extremely honest and I appreciate that about them! But none of their products have worked for me (besides the master patches, of course!). This niacinamide product makes my skin extremely congested. If you still want to try, click here:

The Ordinary Zinc + Niacinamide – I have decided that 30 minutes of perfect, glassy skin is not worth the six hours of pills rolling down my face This is still a huge The Ordinary fan-favorite, though. If you still want to try, click here:

Mario Badescu – Cucumber/Green Tea Facial Spray – Too drying for me 😦 It wasn’t for me, but might be good for others!

Skindinavia Oil Control Finishing Spray – ELF does just as good a job, possibly even better, than this spray. For $20 cheaper. Without alcohol denat as the second ingredient. Or literally any other alcohol. BYE

Rimmel Scandal Eyes Eye Shadow Stick – I don’t know why you were in my purse for six months. I think I was holding out hope you would somehow produce color if I just carried you around or…. something.

L’Oreal Everpure Volume Shampoo – I know, this is a shampoo, so this isn’t in my usual line of business. But I was searching far and wide for a sulfate-free shampoo that wouldn’t wipe out the color in my hair in 40 seconds, nor dry it out. The more natural the better, and my quest to stay away from bad alcohols is beginning to extend to shampoos as well. ::excuses self to hide hairsprays:: This has benzyl alcohol in it. ~A


The drug spironolactone is actually one of the huge drivers in why I decided to start keeping this blog. It was a really long journey to get to the point of taking it — mostly, dealing with the neverending cycle of terrible skin and terrible, misleading skincare products. While spironolactone ended up being my acne’s endgame (for now), I realize that this isn’t necessarily possible for all people suffering the same issues I did.

My skin was NEVER great, and I’ve struggled with cystic acne off and on since I was 13. I had a friend throughout school who had crystal clear skin — I was jealous of her, and confused how she had gotten to that point. She told me she ONLY used some cleanser from Clean and Clear, so I tried it, too. It did nothing. If anything, I found more new spots.

In college, my acne cleared up a tiny bit. I’d still get the occasional cyst, but nothing damning, or nothing that makeup couldn’t fix. It went on like this until I hit 27. All the sudden, my face was disgusting. Painful, inflamed, HUGE spots, that were crazy deep into my skin. I was new to my current company at this time, and this condition was absolutely mortifying. No matter how good a foundation was, it would never fully cover the issue I was experiencing.

I subscribed to r/skincareaddiction on reddit. I read every skincare blog (especially Simple Skincare Science — while I don’t agree with 100% of the product reviews on his page, this is one of the greatest, most extensive info-dumps of all things skincare, and I still read it religiously). Still, NOTHING helped (except maybe Cerave PM… even though I had a ton of zits, the “good” skin was super glowy, woohoo!). After many nights of crying about my busted self-esteem, I realized that maybe it was time to go see a dermatologist.

So I did. I slapped down $200 for my first time appointment, at a dermatologist’s office (and that was after insurance! It’s not a cheap venture). Within five minutes of examining me, the dermatologist recommended Epiduo and Spironolactone. She told me she had seen a lot of success with Spironolactone — and, if that didn’t work, I would begin the dreaded Accutane.  I zipped over to another office to get my blood work done, and once it was decided that all was well, my pharmacy filled the order of Spironolactone. I was overjoyed to get started.

After four days, I looked in the mirror and was foolishly disappointed that nothing had changed (guess I was hoping for the whole “wake up and it’s fixed” effect). When I wasn’t looking in the mirror, I was hunched down over the toilet wondering if I was going to throw up — the first couple of weeks of Spironolactone bring a few gnarly side effects, one being nausea.

The second week was misleadingly good — I thought I was beginning to see progress! Then came the third and the fourth week, and my acne was worse than it ever had been before. I suspect this is what they call the purging period, and it may have been exacerbated by the Epiduo. I still wanted to puke during all hours of the day. I wanted badly to throw in the towel, but I decided I would give it more time.

Around month two, I could start seeing the spironolactone work. I still had a few cysts that were new, but I wasn’t seeing the same “volume” of new acne that I had been before. Unfortunately, month two brought about a new, less pleasant surprise: I was getting my period every 14-15 days, instead of my normal 24-25. My derm expressed some concern about this, and suggested I ought to go from 50mg to 25mg if this persisted. I decided to keep going with the 50mg/daily and see if anything changed.

Month three and month four were my biggest breakthrough of clear skin. The new spots were small, and certainly not cystic by any means. I had a ton of scarring to deal with, so it was difficult to tell that my skin had actually cleared up, but I wasn’t in pain like I had been before with the cysts. And my nausea was finally starting to diminish! (although the five lbs of weight loss was technically not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me).

So here I am now on month nine. Here’s how my life looks now:

  • My skin is virtually acne-free
  • …minus the “that-time-of-the-month” blemishes, but even those disappear on their own in under three days.
  • I still take my spironolactone religiously without missing a day, at 50 mg, and use Epiduo every other night, or as spot treatment.
  • I’ve made huge strides with scarring, but I have a ton of work to do. Some of the ice pick scarring will likely never go away, and everything else will take years to turn over, but I’m okay with that.
  • I try to stick to oil-free moisturizers and makeups, nothing “too heavy”. But, my skin can pretty much tolerate anything I throw at it now, unlike before where it would break out just on contact with a product.
  • My period cycles are still way shorter than they were before I started all of this, but are starting to creep back to 19, 20 days in between.
  • No more terrible nausea  🙂

Just the first line alone — the fact that I do not have pervasive, cystic acne, that is LIFE-CHANGING. I can go out into the world without makeup. I’m not in pain anymore. I don’t have to find ways to hide my face from people.

I suffered with acne for half a lifetime before I summoned both the financial means, decent enough insurance, and emotional courage to go to a dermatologist. So for all of you in that place right now — I completely understand and empathize with you. It’s really, really tough. That’s why I wrote this blog — so when you’re in that “in between space” of buying products and seeing a derm, hopefully one of these blog entries will resonate with you, to help steer you toward, or away, a drugstore product. We live in a world where people are monetized to go online and say good things about a company, even if that company’s product totally sucks. I myself fell for planted reviews, on several occasions. I would never wish that on anyone else, because it’s just an honest to goodness waste of time and money.

But when, or if, you can get to a dermatologist — it is absolutely worth the high upfront cost. It saved my face, my skin, and my self-esteem! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5 (as long as I’m on it anyway… hopefully!)

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Dr Lin Skincare Daily Hydrating Gel (and price gouging in skincare)

Dr Lin Hydrating Gel.JPG

Though I no longer include this moisturizer as part of my repertoire, I was reminded of it when scrolling through my old emails and subsequent past online purchases. It struck a nerve with me since one of my holy grail items (Jergens BB Body Skin Creme) was an unfortunate victim of price gouging and/or overall product price increase. I stopped purchasing Dr Lin’s Hydrating Gel after the price went from an average of $12, to an average of $24 ($30, looking at their website… yikes).

From a business ownership standpoint, I get it. You have a lot of demand for your product, you’re well within your rights to raise the price on it, to cover production costs, to make a better return on the product you’ve masterfully created. But I’m always curious what the risk is of alienating a customer base who was only willing to pay X amount for it. Perhaps that customer base is irrelevant — maybe the company wants to market toward a different demographic, rely on their diehard fans to keep buying, or expect the apparent popularity of an item to reach out to more new customers than they had old.

Still: it’s annoying. And this product, in my opinion, was lackluster enough to be dropped from my routine, and not really deserving of such a sharp price increase.

But I will say it was good to have around for the time I had cystic acne, and a product that would be well placed in a minimalist routine. It was oil free, clear, watery gel, and light weight. It didn’t aggravate my skin, and was refreshing to put on. No offensive smells, very fresh. It did apply a little tacky, but if you waited a couple minutes before touching or putting anything else on your skin, it would not interfere.

But it wasn’t really… moisturizing. It was usually the last step in my morning routine, and I viewed it more as an occlusive layer. Using it just as a moisturizer on it’s own lead to extremely dry skin after half of the day.

So, I’m conflicted. I felt a little bummed out by their decision to increase the price, and it really wasn’t life-changing enough to keep in my routine. For acne sufferers, this stuff will provide a bit of temporary relief from the more painful breakouts, but won’t do anything in the long-term, even beyond the course of four or five hours. ~A

For cystic acne sufferers, you might find that this product is worth the price.

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes