Ask HH: Summer Edition

I often get rather amazing, thoughtful and fairly deep-diving comments on my posts, both here and on Instagram. I figure that my other readers might be interested in reading my answers (and I need to be my ridiculously verbose self), so this feature is where I answer them. Ask your brilliant questions in comments and will do a regular digest with my answers. Of course, please keep in mind that I am not a dermatologist or an aesthetician, so my advice comes strictly from personal experience and obsessive research.

One of my awesome Instagram friends, Waldgalopp, asked for recommendations for a clean chemical exfoliant. Although in my Fighting Words post I talk about my preference for physical exfoliants, I wanted to highlight a few fabulous clean and green chemical exfoliants (yep, such a thing is possible) and one recent discovery that has become my latest product obsession.

My skin’s quirks notwithstanding, chemical exfoliation is possibly the most gentle way to exfoliate the skin, increase cell turnover, stave off fine lines and increase luminosity. Unlike conventional products that often use harsh acids, as well as a host of other less-than-savory nasties, their green counterparts use gentle fruit and lactic acids and include nourishing oils, antioxidants and actives that improve the looks and condition of the skin. Do note that the products I am featuring here are daily exfoliants, rather than exfoliating masks like the True Nature Botanicals Pacific Exfoliating Moisture Mask and the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask, both of which are an excellent way to get quick results and instant glow.

Kypris Beauty Moonlight Catalyst uses fermented pumpkin enzymes to gently exfoliate the skin. This light serum’s beautiful bottle houses equality beautiful and sophisticated ingredients. Though gentle, this is definitely an active product and its light texture means that it can be used both by the mature and the oily/acneic skin types. Moonlight Catalyst is a nighttime serum and I use it in conjunction with my oils and night creams, but if your skin is particularly oily/acneic or just young and not needing too much extra hydration, you could use it on its own or with Kypris’ hydrating Antioxidant Dew or acne-fighting Clearing Serum.

I am planning on doing a comprehensive review of the wonderful (and affordable) line Ursa Major of Vermont in an upcoming post, but its 4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic (also available as a convenient portable wipe) is another top notch chemical exfoliant. Using the more traditional alpha and beta hydroxy acids (naturally derived, of course), this is a traditional “acid toner” as championed by Caroline Hirons. I would suggest using it the same way as does Ms. Hirons: first cleanse, then acid tone, then a hydrating/soothing toner or toner spray and followed by your serums/oils/creams/what have you. It’s worth mentioning that although gentle and very well-frmulated, this is a strong product, so if your skin is especially sensitive, you might want to try a sample first.

Beautycounter’s Enlightening Treatment Pads are the green beauty answer to all those exfoliating pads I used to get pushed at me during my Bliss facials (side note: did anyone else find those facials stressful? So much upselling, it was kind of insane!). A combination of fruit acids, antioxidants and lentil seed extract promise to ward off wrinkles, tighten pores and protect the skin. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I only bought these pads yesterday. I saw them at my amazing nail salon Ten Over Ten (go there if you were freaked out by the NYT article about employee abuses at nail salons) and figured they would be perfect for this post. Because I love you. So anyway, these haven’t gone through my customary extensive testing, but I used them last night and this morning and have experienced zero irritation or redness. The ingredient list on these is superb and the pads themselves have an intensely scrubby texture, so I think they would be a perfect replacement for all those conventional exfoliating pads.

And now we come to my personal exfoliation holy grail. In one of my very first posts, I have written about my love for the Pacific Night Serum with Retinol. Retinol is considered by many to be the ultimate skin-clearing and anti-aging ingredient and the Pacific serum combines it with a host of other powerful anti-agers in a light, beautifully-scented formula. Still, this serum is powerful stuff and sometimes, especially if I used it in winter, I would find it just a bit much for my skin. It’s not that I would experience any irritation, but I did seem to notice that treacherous thinning with prolonged use. So despite loving its effect on my skin, I would sometimes find a bottle of the Retinol Serum unfinished because I felt like I needed to give my skin a break.

Imagine my delight then when I learned that True Nature Botanicals was coming out with a sensitive skin version of the serum. Though I was thrilled to try it, I did wonder whether this less potent version will end up being less effective. I shouldn’t have worried: in texture, look, smell and feel this serum is in no way different from its predecessor. Most importantly, it is also no different in its positive effect on my skin. I have faithfully used it every night and I have been getting compliments on my skin practically on a daily basis. At the same time, I have noticed no thinning whatsoever! It also seems to get rid of blemishes and irritations overnight. For fear of sounding like Goldilocks, TNB seems to have struck the perfect balance with this product: not too strong, not too weak, but just right. I am already freaking out about running out: my bottle is nearly gone. Now, I always say that everyone’s skin is different and no product is perfect for everyone, but as far as my skin is concerned, this baby is a clear winner.

Jasmine asked me an interesting question about sunblock in the comments and although I already answered, I think it’s a very important subject, especially as we are heading into summer and I wanted to discuss it here. “Thanks to you I got my eyes on the Josh Rosebrook Daily Lotion with SPF 30. I love it! My skin really is amazed by it.. the only thing is that for summer I would like to use an natural sunscrren higher than 30, the best would be one with 50. Because I really have big struggle with hyperpigmentation it is something I have to do on a daily basis; protect my skin from the sun as best as it gets. I have fairly blemish prone skin, slightly oily and would love an not so whiteish mattifing solution. Any solution for an SPF 50 daily lotion?..”

Initially, Jasmine’s question stumped me: I simply couldn’t think of a natural sunscreen that offered an SPF protection factor over 30. And then it hit me: we don’t need SPF higher than 30. Dermatologists have been warning about the risks of too-high SPF. For starters, an SPF of 50 only offers 1% more protection than an SPF 30 (98% vs. 97%). In addition, SPF doesn’t block all of the harmful rays, but a high SPF can give a false sense of security, which can, in turn, lead to more skin damage and even skin cancer. Still, there are ways to protect your skin beyond the protection offered by sunblock. The same antioxidants that prevent aging also protect your skin against environmental aggressors, including the harming sun ray.

Some of my favorite oils are formulated with a stellar collection of antioxidant ingredients that can really amp the protection provided by your sunscreen. Yuli’s Liquid Courage, La Bella Figura’s Daily Elements Defense, Laurel Skin’s Antioxidant and Sun Repair Serums all combine sophisticated plant ingredients that help shield the skin from harmful sun exposure. Meanwhile, In Fiore’s Soleil Fleur Before Sun Treatment is a lightweight serum created specifically to prevent sun damage. Layer it under your antioxidant oil and sunscreen and your skin’s defenses will be practically impenetrable (though you should probably still  wear a hat on the beach).

To be honest, I happen to have a vitamin D deficiency and I don’t think that keeping out every single ray of sunshine is the best possible approach. Learn what works for your skin (if you are lily-fair, your risk of exposure is higher than those with darker complexions) and use the best sun protection for the given circumstances. If you are laying out on the beach, bring out the sunscreen big guns, but for an overcast day spent at the office you might be able to get away with something a bit lighter.

This last question also comes from Instagram. The lovely Msalexcooley asks: “What skin regimen do you follow when you wake up and you’re going to the gym? Any skincare habits before the gym?”

If I am perfectly honest, my morning routine is largely dependent on whether I have time to shower in the morning. When I do, I use a gentle cleanser and follow my full daytime routine: hydrating spray toner, eye cream, serum, oil and moisturizer/sun protection (all of these get varied depending on what I happen to be using at the moment. Unfortunately, an hour-long commute to my son’s school often means that I sometimes have to make a choice between my morning cup of coffee loaded with Sun Potion boosters and a shower. As you can imagine, the shower usually loses. On those days I make do with splashing some water of my face, a toner spray (can’t live without those) and a bit of face oil.

As for the pre-gym routine, I try to avoid anything too heavy. I won’t use heavy sunscreen or a particularly rich moisturizer: my SoulCycle sessions leave me drenched and dripping with sweat and I don’t want to strangle my skin with heavy products. And speaking of strangling, if there is one bit of advice I can give for your pre-gym routine it’s this: please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t wear makeup to the gym! Look, I am not judging. I happen to prefer going makeup-free, but have plenty of friends who feel naked without it. Still, you are there to sweat (I presume. If you are there to meet a potential partner I totally get it and respect your struggle. Carry on) and you really don’t need a layer of coverage keeping your pores from working at optimal capacity. If you are doing gentle, low impact exercise like barre, Pilates, yoga (not Bikram, obvs) and the like, I suppose there is no harm in a touch of mascara and lipgloss if you need it to feel more alive/pretty, but it’s probably still best to leave the full-on contouring for other occasions.

I honestly don’t mean to sound judgey and ultimately you should do whatever makes you feel most confident and beautiful. After all, sometimes getting to the gym can be a struggle, so if that blush and mascara help motivate you, then you go with your bad self and wear all the makeup you need. Just be aware that it can cause breakouts once mixed with exercise, so if your workout is making you breakout, you might want to think about dialing back on the makeup.

Disclaimer: The TNB Pacific Serum with Retinol for Sensitive Skin was generously sent for my review after I have purchased the original version at least half a dozen time. I will never be without the sensitive version again. The Ursa Major exfoliating wipes were also sent for my review. I will be buying more for my husband. The rest of the products I purchased myself.

37 responses to Ask HH: Summer Edition

  1. I think your response to the sunscreen question is so well said. I wear SPF 30 everyday and have never wanted more because years ago I read about there not being much difference between SPF 30 and a higher SPF. I think a lot of the products with higher SPF are just marketing gimmicks. I am very fair and found out last month that I also have a pretty bad vitamin D deficiency, so I’ve been trying to get a bit of sun everyday. In my experience the adage “too much of a good thing” is usually true. Balance is key.

    • Oh thank you again for summiting up about the whole SPF debate 🙂 I think my lack in Skin care Routine was really the whole antioxidants Thing! I ordered the LBF daily defends Serum and the living libations Cell-Serum. Watch out you fine lines and sun damage, soon you will disappear 😀

  2. So glad you said that about the sunscreen. It worries me when people are too caught up in the SPF stuff. I like old school, but SPF is no longer where it’s at. EWG has so much great info on sunscreens – with yearly updates – so I’m always checking in with them. I use straight red raspberry seed oil (fave from Haut Cosmetics) and it works great. My Haut makeup (HDD and biomineral foundation) are protective as well. I’m trying out some new products this year, too.

    On the Josh Rosebrook sunscreen, I love it for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think it’s quite as protective as I want it to be when used on its own. That stuff about SPF already said, do you find it functions like SPF 30? I didn’t get a burn but did get some color while using it. It left me with a slight line on my shoulders while wearing a tank top. Admittedly it was afternoon sun, but I wasn’t trying to be “out in the sun” just sat outside at work with my laptop on a nice day. I’m hoping to try the tinted version he’s coming out with and see how that is. Because I like to keep my deathly pallor, I don’t want to pick up any color whatsoever. ; )

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Haha! Your “deathly pallor” is sexy, girl! As for Josh Rosebrook, to be honest, I use it as my “city sunscreen”. For the beach, I use Suntegrity or something equally hardcore like Raw Elements. I don’t think it would be quite strong enough for the beach/strong afternoon sun.

      • Veronica

        Have you tried the organic pharmacy SPF 50 sun cream? I really like that it doesn’t ball up like some physical sunscreen.

  3. These are excellent recommendations! I’ve been debating between trying Kypris’ Moonlight Catalyst or the Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum for a product that’ll help to exfoliate and impart radiance to my skin. I’ve also got my eye on YÜLI’s Liquid Courage as I’ve heard great things about it and I’ve had positive experiences with a couple of their other serums.

  4. Two questions: I’m a mascara addict. I’m looking for a green answer. So far, I like Jane Iredale. Do you have any other suggestions? Second, can you talk about Sun Potions? What do you really like and why?

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      I find that green mascaras are very individual. For example, the Well People mascara is most people’s HG product, but it smudges like crazy on me. Personally, I’m in love with Kjaer Weiss. It’s my perfect mascara. As for Sun Potions, I’ve been posting a lot about them on Instagram: I just find their products to be really effective and powerful. They are basically a daily staple for me – I use them in my coffee and throughout the day. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

  5. Amy Elaine

    LOVE this post. I am a huge fan of TNB’s Exfoliating Cleanser and Balancing Face Oil — I even tried another brand (OSEA) and only lasted a week. Had to go back to TNB!

    I’ve been toying with joining the Kypris fan club – especially the Antioxidant Dew for day and the Moonlight Catalyst for night – and now I’m sold! (My irritable/dry skin was unwelcoming to TNB’s Night Face Serum with Retinol.) I’m also in the market for One Love’s Vitamin B Cleanser to join forces with my TNB after your post a while back.

    Two questions … First, do you have a favorite eye balm or serum? I’ve heard wonderful things about One Love’s eye balm. Second – and this is slightly out of the skincare realm (except for the whole inside-out thing) – could you possibly do a post on how you use the Sun Potion products? I am intrigued beyond belief (and have long enjoyed the (non-hallucinogenic) benefits of mushroom-related supplements) and would love to hear how to use them in your everyday.

    Thank you!


    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      What a lovely comment, Amy, thank you! So as far as eye products go, I actually have a few favorites that all do different things. The OLO balm is beautiful, but didn’t work for me: my eyes are prone to milia, so it just ended up being too rich. I use it sporadically when my eyes feel extra dry in the colder months, but can’t deal with regular use. I have 3 products that I adore and that are all different: La Bella Figura’s Decouverte Serum, In Fiore’s Vis Claire and Bottega Organica’s eye cream. I LOVE Decouverte, but it’s an oil and I know some people have problems with stinging when using it. I don’t, but it’s worth mentioning. It’s perfect for overnight use. I use it during the day as well, but I don’t wear eye makeup in a regular basis. The Vis Claire is light, really tightening and awesome. If you are super-dry and delicate, you might find it not to be hydrating enough and, as I said in my In Fiore post, the alcohol in the products doesn’t bother me (though the eye cream stings the tiniest bit on application), but I can see where it would be a problem for some people. As for Bottega Organica, it’s the closest to a traditional, rich eye cream and I am absolutely in love with it. I’ve written posts about all three of you want a bit more detail 🙂 And yes, I should totally do an “inner beauty” post. I’m actually going to meet the Sun Potions team next week, so I might do it after 🙂 Thank you for reading! Xx

      • Amy Elaine

        Ah! This is so helpful – thank you! I am also prone to milia around the eyes, so that is great to know about the OLO. But there are still so many options! It feels like Christmas! Now, I’m off to experiment on myself (and read your other posts for further guidance) … Thank you again! xo

      • If I may interject – in the everyone is different category – I get milia too, but I use the OLO cleansing oil regularly and I’ve noticed no increase in the problem. I give myself a thorough spritz with a hydrosol before using it, and it still works great as a makeup remover, but doesn’t feel as thick and rinses off better. A spritz works better than just splashing water on my face – too wet and the product thins too much. My skin doesn’t like wiping with a cloth so this works great for me.

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Oh no, I get no problems from the ra sing oil! It’s completely awesome, actually. I meant the OLO Eye Balm. Sorry if that wasn’t clear 🙂

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Lol! I can relate, love! Most of my time on the Internet is spent getting mad because I misread something 🙂

  6. Veronica

    Love your post!
    How would you compare the Yuli modern alchemist to the Pacific retinol serum? I am using yuli now and I live it but always have the wanderlust to try new products!😊

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Thank you! ☺️ As for the Yuli/Pacific comparison, they are really quite different. Modern Alchemist is an oil with natural retinols, which means that its action is very gentle. It helps improve the skin, but you will not see dramatic results (I mean, you might in that your skin will immediately be more glowing/hydrated/etc., but it will not be the resurfacing action you can see with retinol). Pacific is a serum, it’s not at all oily, can only be worn overnight and is much more intense. Think of MA as a daily product to maintain your skin, make it look good and gradually improve it and the Pacific as an intense treatment. Hope this helps 🙂

      • Veronica

        Thank you the speedy and helpful reply! I hope you don’t mind a few more questions.

        Do you think it is better to use the Pacific on its own a few times a week? or could I layer it under MA since it is a serum. I have tried mixing the Moonlight catalyst with MA with very nice result so I am wondering if I can do the same with Pacific.

  7. Maria

    Hey again. I wrote u about acid toning a while back. I was wondering your thoughts on morning cleansing, is it necessary, or is a splash of water and a nice hydrating elixir and face oil sufficient it’s warm and humid here I am in Midwest. Also in your retinol use, do u do that nightly? As well as use exfoliating masks?

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Well… If I am being a responsible person who cares about your skincare routine, I would say that you really ought to cleanse your face in the am with a gentle cleanser to get off all the sweat, sebum and dead skin that accumulates overnight. That being said, there’s the ideal world and then there is reality. And the reality is that I myself often don’t have the time nor inclination to wash my face properly in the morning. So I would suggest that you should wash it at night, come hell or high water (that’s the part that really affects the health of your skin), but your suggested morning routine is fine (though if you can manage a cleanse, it’s certainly a good thing to do). As for retinols, I usually do a course and then give my skin a break, but you could use them nightly, depending on the condition kid your skin. As for exfoliating masks, it’s never a good idea to over-mask, so I’d suggest using them once-twice a week at most. And yes, you can combine chemical exfoliators like that, especially natural ones, since they all tend to be quite gentle.

  8. Amy Elaine

    Hi again! I’ve worked OLO’s Vitamin B cleanser and the Kypris serums/oils into my skin routine – well, as of last night (stupid ground shipping!) – and I woke up with this bright, beautiful, soft skin. WHAT?! In short, your blog has taught me that there is no cure all – there is no magic cleanser that I can use every night and every morning to bring back the beautiful, blemish free skin of my youth. Now, I shall put together an arsenal and use different products based on how my skin looks and feels that day. (Plus, I now know how to properly cleanse with oil. That might’ve been a significant problem during the first attempts.)

    Anywho, in slowly but surely building my arsenal, I have a question: masks (or masques if you’re fancy). Am I supposed to break out after them? Or am I just using the wrong ones? What are your faves for (a) deep cleaning and (b) exfoliating?

    Thank you!! xx

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Oh my god, SQUEEEEE!!! You have absolutely made my day!!! So glad you had such awesome results! As for masks, noooooo! They are most certainly not supposed to break you out! Would you mind letting me know which ones you are using now that are breaking you out? That way I won’t recommend the culprits 🙂 You can email me directly if you like: Xx

  9. Sarah

    I know this is a totally old post, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut about sun protection. Your response was so on point! I wanted to add another REALLY important thing about sunscreen if your goal is to stay as protected as possible… use enough! I recommend this post from FutureDerm on how SPF is measured and how much you have to apply: I personally use 2 pumps of suntegrity 5 in 1 on a daily basis (used to use 1 until I read about the 1/4 tsp!), then for the beach I am all about the hats + sunscreen. When I am feeling especially OCD, I also keep a sun-protective powder on hand (right now I’m using Haut but am eying Ilia’s)–I wouldn’t use enough to count as a real SPF, but I figure it makes up for any light spots in my application of the suntegrity.

    When it comes to comparing the physical “natural” sunscreens to standard chemical blockers, the chemical ones might have a higher SPF, but zinc is where it’s at for total efficacy. There’s a reason why lifeguards and tiny babies use it! Unlike many standard sunblocks, even the ones that claim to be broad-spectrum, zinc can really protect you equally from both kinds of UV rays, both the ones that cause burning and the ones that cause deeper, insidious damage over time. So the SPF 50’s you see may keep you ghostly pale, but they may not be blocking as many UVA rays… and of course they may also be causing premature damage on their own, but that’s a whole different topic.

    Last but not least, the BEST reason to use zinc-based sunscreens is that, as long as they are on your face, they are working. After a couple hours in the sun, standard chemical blockers run out of steam and no longer protect you, but unless the zinc has sweated off your face, it will still be there protecting you!

    Sorry for the long rant, but it just makes me sad when people think that their zinc options won’t work as well as the drugstore stuff 🙂

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Thank you SO much! This is such a helpful explanation! And timely, too, seeing as I just burned myself to a crisp in Miami! 😭😭😭

      • Sarah Roberts

        Aw, sorry to hear about your burn! Were you using a sunscreen that relies a lot on botanicals like raspberry seed oil? I’ve been thinking a lot about their use in zinc-based sunscreens how I feel about it because my understanding is that natural oils are actually more akin to chemical sunscreens in the way they work–ie, they can break down and stop working much more quickly, so although you don’t need to reapply more zinc, you do need to reapply the sunscreen much more often. (I appreciate that brands like Laurel and Living Libations mention the need to reapply often with their zinc-free sun-protective oils.) So something like Josh R.’s cream would work for me on a daily basis because most of my sun exposure comes right after I put on makeup and walk to work, while it’s close to dark by the time I walk home. But I am too lazy to reapply (and hate the feeling of layers of stuff on my face) so that wouldn’t work for a day at the beach. Thank goodness for floppy hats and suntegrity!

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Honestly? I didn’t use any 😳 Ordinarily, I cover spots that are prone to burning when I’m in the water (my shoulders and neck) and my face always and then stay under an umbrella the whole time I’m on the beach/pool. This time, I popped down for what I thought was a minute to watch the kids’ swimming lesson and ended up staying for an hour. Without an umbrella. Bloody stupid. Or, as my husband kept repeating over and over while I whined and complained, “it’s so unlike me”.

      • Aw, sorry to hear about your burn! Were you using a sunscreen that relies a lot on botanicals like raspberry seed oil? I’ve been thinking a lot about their use in zinc-based sunscreens how I feel about it because my understanding is that natural oils are actually more akin to chemical sunscreens in the way they work–ie, they can break down and stop working much more quickly, so although you don’t need to reapply more zinc, you do need to reapply the sunscreen much more often. (I appreciate that brands like Laurel and Living Libations mention the need to reapply often with their zinc-free sun-protective oils.) So something like Josh R.’s cream would work for me on a daily basis because most of my sun exposure comes right after I put on makeup and walk to work, while it’s close to dark by the time I walk home. But I am too lazy to reapply (and hate the feeling of layers of stuff on my face) so that wouldn’t work for a day at the beach. Thank goodness for floppy hats and suntegrity!

      • sarah roberts

        Aw, I think that’s totally happened to all of us fair-skinned + distracted ladies. I will say, ever since I invested in some UPF cardigans and scards from Mott50 and a J.Crew rashguard it’s been much easier to deal with the sun.

        Hope the sunburn didn’t keep you from enjoying an amazing vacation! (And I’m looking forward to a new blog post soon? ;))

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        The blog post is up! And the sunburn definitely didn’t ruin my fun (although I look like a particularly unattractive snake at the moment)! 😂😂😂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s