Product Review: Coral Actives Acne Therapy System


The Coral Actives Acne System uses benzoyl peroxide to help kill the bacteria that causes acne and sea whip, which helps to mitigate pain and take down inflammation — very beneficial for those with acne. I’ve had an unfortunate breakout as of late, so it was the perfect time for Coral Actives to send us their soap for us to try. I found that it was a bit tough on my skin, which became very sensitive, but overall, it was effective in helping me.

What Causes Acne?

Acne is caused when excess sebum — known colloquially as oil — is produced and blocks the pores. They attract bacteria and inevitably become inflamed. After a multi-step process, this inevitably forms pimples.

This doesn’t just happen to teens, it can and does happen to adults frequently, with some of the common causes being: weather changes, cosmetic products, heredity or hypersensitivity, high sugar in food and drinks, hormones, medication and medication changes, smoking, and stress.

Unfortunately, some of those are unavoidable, but with treatment, one can keep acne under control.

[Read More: How to Get Rid of Adult Acne: 6 Treatments You Haven’t Tried]

Benzoyl Peroxide


Benzoyl Peroxide kills P. acnes.

Benzoyl peroxide is frequently used in acne medication because it kills Propionibacterium acnes. P. acnes are found in the follicle and they reproduce very quickly, which means you want to take care of them quickly.

While there are acne medicines that employ the use of antibacterial agents, up to 60% of those suffering from acne have bacteria-resistant acne (Baumann). 

But the way benzoyl peroxides kill P. acne is by creating reactive oxygen species in the follicle (Journal of American Academic Dermatology). Consequently, you should use benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment and not necessarily everywhere.

Benzoyl peroxide can also denature trentinoin, which is the vitamin A form found in products like Retin-A micro. So, you can use one in the morning and one at night but you shouldn’t use them together in the same application (British Journal of Dermatology).

[Read More: Acne: What Causes It and What to Do about It]

Sea Whip Extract

Kurukuru Wall at Uepi

Coral Actives name may be referring to one of its ingredients, the sea whip coral.

Coral Actives name may be referring to the fact that the company’s products contain extract from the Sea Whip Coral. The extract is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

In a study on its anti-inflammatory properties, sea whip extract was found to reduce inflammation better than commercial drug indomethacin, also known as indocin. It also penetrates deeply, going into the deeper layers of skin. It also inhibits phospholipase, 5-lipoxygenase, and cycloxygenase (Journal of the Inflammation). Phospholipase has been shown to be a part of an arachidonic cascade of inflammation (International Journal of Cosmetic Science).

In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, it also has analgesic properties, which means that it can help stop pain (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science).

Sea Whip extract has also been shown to have some healing properties, making it an all around beneficial ingredient to have in terms of caring for wounds and inflammation, issues that can plague acne sufferers (Department of Chemistry).

Personal Use and Opinion

I found the Coral Actives bar gave me a good clean, but my skin felt a bit tight afterwards, as though there was still some residue from the soap. The Retin-A soap afterward took that feeling away, but left my skin feeling a bit sensitive. When I put on the topical Spot Treatment, I found that it burned a bit. My skin is relatively sensitive, so it’s possible that this reaction is merely that. I have not often used benzoyl peroxide products in the past, so I cannot speak comparatively. However, I did notice that some of the unfortunate breakout that’s been happening lately on my face went away (hooray!).

Bottom Line

I’m not sure about the efficacy of including Retin-A in a wash-off product such as Coral Actives Scrub, particularly given the fact that it can denature in the presence of benzoyl peroxide. However, if you use the scrub at night and don’t cover it with benzoyl peroxide and use the benzoyl peroxide in the morning, that might work as a regiment. Overall, I found that the bar left me feeling a bit of residue on my face. However, I really enjoyed the Coral Actives spot cream, which definitely penetrated and helped to reduce acne and inflammation. I think that’s a product that I will continue to use.

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Product Review: Evie Evan Firm & Repair Throat Creme


Evie Evan Firm & Repair Throat Creme promises to make sure your neck keeps looking beautiful and firm. With a mix of moisturizing ingredients and peptides, it helps to boost collagen production to make skin tighter and help reduce signs of aging. Evie Evan gave us the opportunity to try it and I found that, overall, it’s thickness and scent were pleasant and its ingredients are promising. The product was also in a Beauty Box Five, which is similar to Birchbox.

Shea Butter


Shea butter isn’t just good for moisturizing, it has anti-aging effects too.

Shea butter is most known for its phenomenal moisturizing capabilities. In a study where participants were given a placebo cream and one with shea butter, the cream with shea butter peaked its moisturizing effects at one hour, but continued working for eight hours (Pobeda and Sousselier). It’s also been found to be better than mineral oil at preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL) (Formulation and Science).

But shea butter actually has some age-fighting properties as well. It’s been found to help lessen wrinkles caused by sun damage, regenerate thinning skin, and help in wound healing. Shea butter’s anti-aging effects may come, in part, because of its unsaponifiables — which are lipids found in fatty fruits. In studies on rats, unsaponifiables from avocados boosted collagen products (British Journal of Dermatology). Other studies have found that these lipids increase collagen production in order to help smooth wrinkles (Phytotherapy Research).

[Read More: Spotlight On: Shea Butter]

Cranberry Oil


Cranberries are not well studied for skin care, but have many antioxidants.

Cranberry oil is on point with the trend of adding the extract of fruits that grow in cold climates. However, it hasn’t been tested extensively on human skin, so we don’t know exactly how well it works when applied topically in cosmetics. In traditional medicine, it’s often used to treat urinary tract infections.

Cranberry oil is a rich source of antioxidants, which is why it’s sometimes used in food preservation (Natural Product Radiance). It’s a free radical scavenger and lab tests — though they haven’t been done on human skin — find that its anthrocyanins work to inhibit lipoprotein oxidation (Asian Pacific Journal of Nursing). It’s also known for having the perfect balance (1:1 ratio) of Omega 3 and 6 as well as a good level of Omega 9.

[Read More: Spotlight On: Cranberry]


Evie Evan Firm & Repair Throat Creme contains several silicones, such as cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone. Silicones have been used in beauty products since the 1950s because they work well as emollients (Cosmetics and Toiletries).

They help to moisturize the skin, but they also make the actual formulation feel better and reduce the sticky feeling in products like sunscreen. When put in skin care products, silicones can help to keep protect certain ingredients from degradation but still maintain a preferable consistency for the consumer.

Certain silicones are helpful for the reparation of cells, help to reconstruct and repair skin (Journal of Applied Cosmetology). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find studies on either of these ingredients to say whether this formulation would help to repair skin.


Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 is great for reducing inflammation and can help reduce the cumulative effects of environmental damage, pollution, and pro-oxidative stress (Clinics in Dermatology).

Palmitoyl oligopeptide helps to increase the production of collagen in human fibroblasts when used regularly, which is likely what’s giving this product its firming edge (Dermatological Therapy). This will help to create firmer skin.

[Read More: What are the Differences between Peptides?]

Personal Use and Opinion

evie-evan-throat-cremeEvie Evan Firm & Repair Throat Creme has a creamy and almost citrus smell. The cream itself is a medium-thick consistency, but it absorbs into skin pretty quickly, leaving only a slight feeling of tackiness on the skin. Overall, it’s a moisturizing formula that feels good on and smells lovely. Through I’d likely use it at night, I’m still a far of putting sun protection in a product like this (after all, sun is the biggest extrinsic factor for aging!). So, I’d recommend using it with sunscreen for sure.

Bottom Line

While this Evie Evan Firm & Repair Throat Creme is ultra hydrating and has a lot of moisturizing ingredients, and though the ingredients fall lower on the list, it does have some ingredients that lift and firm. Overall, the product has a pleasant scent, is thick without being too tacky, and has ingredients that should help firm skin.

Product Rating:  7.5/10

  • High or optimized concentration of key ingredients: 2/3
  • Unique formulation or new technology:  3/3
  • Value:  2.5/3
  • Sunscreen: 0/1


Water, shea butter, cyclopentasiloxane, bisdiglyceryl polyacyladipate-2, cetyl octanoate, yeast extract, cetyl esters, cetearyl alcohol, glycerin, dimethicone, cranberry oil, behenyl alcohol, hesperidin methyl chalcone, steareth-20, dipeptide-2, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, palmitoyl oligopeptide, tocopherol, butylene glycol, carbomer, polyacrylate 13, polyisobutene, polysorbate 20, ceteareth-20, cetearyl glucoside, laureth-4, potassium sorbate, polysorbate 80, methylisothiazolinone

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My Top Liquid Face Makeup Products from Sephora

Despite the limitations this year, you can’t deny that the VIB invitation is absolutely stunning!

With the Sephora VIB Sale for 2012 starting today, I thought we’d take a break from skin care and talk about some of my favorite makeup products. I originally intended this post to be about my favorite Sephora skin care value sets. However, after perusing through the entire online store, I couldn’t find a single set worth recommending.

Frequently Asked Questions about the VIB Sale

Q: Is the 20% discount a one-shot deal?

A: As the primary VIB account holder, you can make as many purchases as you’d like (both in-store and online) between Nov. 8-12 and receive the 20% discount.

Q: If I bring a friend to a physical store, can he/she get the 20% discount as well?

A: Yes. However, he/she can only receive the 20% discount if both of you go on the 8th of November.

Q: In the VIB email that I received, it said that I can send a online-only code to a friend. Can that only be used on the 8th as well?

A: No. If you choose to instead email your code to a friend, he/she can use that code for one online purchase between November 8-12 and receive the 20% discount.

Q: Can I bring a friend into a store AND send the online-only code to another person? Will both receive the 20% discount?

A: Yes, you can do both. So for example, you can bring Erin with you on the 8th to a physical store, AND you can also email an online-only code to Rachel; both will get the discount!

I know that Sephora has severely tightened and unnecessarily complicated both their Friends & Family and VIB Sales this year, so I hope that this clears up some of the confusion. If you’re a VIB, make the most out of your exclusive benefits and help out TWO friends in need!

Daytime Foundation

After trying 70+ liquid foundations and tinted moisturizers (from Sephora and other department stores), the following products seem to work best for me. But it’s not enough to simply state that these are the best options at Sephora. I have to explain WHY they are the prime choices in each category.

Qualifications needed to be a successful candidate:

  1. Because I mix (1 part foundation: 3 parts sunscreen), in order to achieve anything more than sheer coverage, I need a foundation that provides medium-full coverage on its own. I don’t have to the time or patience to wait for my sunscreen to set, and then apply foundation. So I mix them.
  2. While my sunscreen is quite matte and transfer-resistant alone, because of my very oily skin type, I need a foundation that gives a matte finish and lasts well throughout the day on its own, in order to boost longevity and reduce the need to touch up.
  3. Because I’m mixing foundation into my (inorganic) sunscreen and therefore reducing the overall level of protection, I need a foundation that provides decent inorganic-based UV protection on its own. To see how to assess a mixed sunscreen, make sure to read this post that deals strictly with the mixing of inorganic-based UV filters.

For my routine, the Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15 foundation is the best overall choice.

Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15:

  1. This provides at least medium coverage alone;
  2. Gives a creamy matte finish and lasts fairly well throughout the day;
  3. And contains 4.7% of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2).

This foundation possesses a rare blend of characteristics that gives me a great base during the daytime. Its very thin liquid texture allows for easy mixing and enhances the overall spreadability of the sunscreen. The overall palette of this foundation tends to be quite warm; almost orange. However, that works perfectly to counteract some of the ashiness and white cast that my inorganic sunscreen leaves behind. Finally, the foundation comes with a pump, which allows for more consistent and accurate measurements when mixing.

Some of the other foundations that I’ve tried and considered for the purpose of mixing with my sunscreen include:

Lancôme Teint Idole 24H SPF 15: (Due to the alcohol content, when combined with my already transfer-resistant sunscreen, this is actually a bit too drying. But its longevity is better than the Smashbox. However, it does not provide adequate UV protection with only 3% octinoxate). If you’re worried about the dangers of alcohol in skin care, make sure to read this post.

MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15: (The texture is quite thick and does not enhance application. Being either NC or NW, the color selections are either too warm or too cool. The 2% TiO2 is also a bit too low for my taste).

MAC Matchmaster SPF 15: (While it has a neutral palette, it unfortunately doesn’t have much longevity. 1% TiO2 is also far too low).

Estee Lauder Double Wear SPF 10: (This was seriously considered as it fulfills all three of the essential characteristics quite well. The biggest problem was that the finish was a powdery matte finish, rather than a creamy matte. This made the foundation look very heavy in direct sunlight and has a tendency to accentuate large pores and flaky skin. Also, the color selections jump around too much. I had to be matched three or four times for an adequate match and even then, I’m still not satisfied with shade: Sand 2W1. Also it doesn’t come with a pump).

Shiseido Sun Protection Liquid Foundation SPF 42: (This was another serious contender. With its excellent TiO2 content (13.9%) and thin texture, it was born to be mixed with sunscreens. However, it does not come with a pump and is almost too fluid; it’s difficult to get consistent results. Also, after switching out my Shiseido SPF 55 sunscreen, I noticed how intense the fragrance this product has; it’s the same scent as the Shiseido sunscreen. Finally, my shade SP40 was a bit too orange).

Shiseido Dual Balancing SPF 17: (To make a long story short, this just does not provide adequate longevity or oil control).

Hourglass Veil Fluid Makeup SPF 15: (Like the Shiseido Dual Balancing, this did not provide adequate longevity).

Chanel Mat Lumiere SPF 15: (The texture was a bit heavy for my taste and provided only fleeting oil-control. Also, the color selection for warm skin tones tends to be more yellow rather than orange or golden. Therefore, it didn’t counteract the white cast of the sunscreen very well).

Chanel Perfection Lumiere SPF 10: (This did not provide adequate longevity, and like the Mat Lumiere, had a more yellow-based palette).

Dior Forever Flawless Makeup SPF 25: (This was another serious contender. However, like the Lancôme Teint Idole 24H, the alcohol content was a bit too drying when combined with my sunscreen. Furthermore, the TiO2 content (2.37%) is too low).

Clarins Ever Matte SPF 15: (2.3% TiO2 is a bit low, and the grapefruit-like fragrance was too overpowering. The powdery-matte finish was also not suitable. Ironically, it did not have much longevity despite this finish).

Clinique Even Better SPF 15: (It has a slightly powdery finish, but unfortunately does not provide adequate longevity).

Guerlain Lingerie de Peau SPF 20: (The biggest problem with this foundation was the color selection. Shade 02 was too gray, while 03 was too dark. I hear there’s a new shade 031 that’s like 02 in lightness, but is more warm-toned. However, I didn’t check it out because this formula doesn’t last very long on my skin anyways).

So considering coverage, finish, UV protection, texture, longevity, color, packaging, and smell, the Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15 is the best overall choice for me.

Tinted Moisturizers

I don’t really use pre-made tinted moisturizers since I essentially make my own. However, for those days when I have to be out the door in 5 minutes and don’t have the time to mix two products, I need something that provides decent UV protection, longevity, and coverage, while matching my skin and being easy to apply.

The Tarte Smooth Operator SPF 20 Tinted Moisturizer is probably the most appropriate TM for oily skin types like mine.

Tarte Smooth Operator SPF 20: This provides decent UV protection with 5% TiO2 and 5% zinc oxide (ZnO); it also contains a smattering of photoprotective antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins C and E. The color 06 matches my skin tone quite well. Note that the palette does jump around a lot. For example, shade 02 is lighter than 00, while shade 04 is darker than both 06 and 10. This lasts surprisingly long for a tinted moisturizer; I don’t get too greasy throughout the day.

Some of the other tinted moisturizers that I’ve tried and considered include:

Stila Sheer Color SPF 20: This is very similar to the Tarte, except that it doesn’t last as long on the skin for me. Furthermore, no shade in its palette matches me better than shade 06 in the Smooth Operator. And while this contains higher concentrations of the antioxidant vitamins C and E, the inclusion of fine shimmer particles makes this an inappropriate choice for my very oily skin type.

Too Faced Beauty Balm SPF 20: This is another similar product to the two mentioned above, more so to the Tarte than the Stila. However, my biggest problem was that the lightest shade Vanilla Glow was too dark for my skin.

Evening Foundation:

When it comes to evening foundation, most of the same qualifications for the daytime foundation are required. The exception is that something without any reflective UV particles like TiO2 or ZnO is preferred, in case there’s flash photography.

When mixed with the Smashbox foundation and a moisturizer, this gives the most flattering, long-wearing, skin-like finish I’ve ever seen!

Lancôme Teint Idole 24H SPF 15: By itself, this provides an incredibly long-wearing, creamy matte finish that looks very natural. However, I could not get a perfect color match. Like the Double Wear, I had to be matched multiple times. The foundation was also a bit drying. To remedy both of these shortcomings, I actually mix one part of this (in 250 Bisque) with one part of the Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15 (1.2) AND one part of a moisturizer. The result is the most natural, long-wearing foundation that matches my skin perfectly; 250 Bisque is slightly too olive and dark, while 1.2 is (like I said above) slightly too light and orange. So combining the two makes for a pretty exact match to my neck. The best part is that I can just smooth this concoction on with my fingers. It doesn’t look too made up and is just perfect. I’m so thrilled to have stumbled upon this combination. I actually went to Knott’s Scary Farm this year with this combination. Through all the screaming, laughing, and running, this just did not budge. I did have to blot, but there was virtually no transfer of color. I’m really tempted to just throw out all my other foundation samples, and I have a ton, just because these two products are THAT good.

Now, if I’m going to take photographs, I just use the Teint Idole 24H by itself mixed with equal parts of the moisturizer. In my experience, the 3% oxtinoxate does not flash back.

Some of the other “evening” foundations that I’ve tried and considered include:

***Because this post is really getting quite long, I’ll just give very short summaries of each foundation and why there were inappropriate for me. If you have additional questions or require clarifications on any of the foundations, please let me know in the comments section.

Laura Mercier Silk Crème: Used to be my favorite. But it took too much work to apply. It also doesn’t last very long. The color selection tends to be quite beige or gray.

Make Up Forever HD: Does not have any longevity.

Make Up Forever Mat Velvet+: Has a very powdery matte finish.

Make Up Forever Face and Body: Took too long to set due to its petrolatum content; had no longevity.

NARS Sheer Glow: Despite having a beautiful satin-matte finish, it also had no longevity.

NARS Sheer Matte: Odd color selections and a powdery matte finish.

Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder: Has a SUPER powdery matte finish that just looks very heavy and made up.

Clinique Perfectly Real: Quite a beautiful foundation, but provides only sheer-light coverage.

Clinique Acne Solutions Makeup: Again, only sheer-medium coverage.

Burberry Sheer Fluid Foundation: The fragrance was very strong, and the foundation did not last very long.

Illamasqua Skin Base: Again, no longevity despite the creamy matte finish.

Foundation Conclusion

I hope that was helpful and again, don’t hesitate to ask questions about any of the foundations. Also, feel free to share your Sephora (VIB) foundation purchases or shopping lists with us! Happy Shopping! And may the odds be ever…

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