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Skin Care Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Merry Christmas!
Here it is: the ubiquitous holiday gift guide. When it comes to skin care however, it’s actually quite difficult to recommend a gift set because rarely are all the products of equal or similar quality. While browsing through the 300+ distinct skin care gift sets on Sephora, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman, I found myself rather annoyed because every time I found a potential hopeful, some characteristic (whether it be packaging, price, value, or formulation) would be so glaringly paltry as to disqualify it from being selected or approved. In the end, I found THREE gift sets that I’d be content to receive, or could see myself buying for another.

StriVectin Blockbuster Kit ($79)

This gift set is great for those who are curious about nicotinic acid!
This gift set allegedly carries a $199 value and contains the following products:
  1. Eye Concentrate for Wrinkles (0.25 oz): This contains 7.5% myristyl nicotinate (MN), an ester form of nicotinic acid (NCA). However, all the other beneficial “non-moisturizing” ingredients (such as caffeine, ceramide 2, resveratrol) are listed after the preservative phenoxyethanol, meaning that they are present in very low concentrations and are most likely negligible in terms of having a positive effect. The same goes for the several potentially irritating ingredients that may not be appropriate for use around the eyes. However, keep in mind that this product can certainly be used on any skin surface. Something labeled as an “eye” cream is NOT necessary.
  2. Volumizing Hand Treatment (1 oz): Besides containing 7.5% MN, this “hand” cream also contains notable emollients such as shea butter, and the avocado, sunflower, and olive non-fragrant plant oils. This also contains good amounts of hyaluronic acid, and low amounts of vitamin B5, vitamin E and C esters, CoQ10, resveratrol, and arbutin. Overall, this makes for an excellent hand and face cream for dry to slightly oily skin types.
  3. Power Serum for Wrinkles (1 oz): This contains 10% MN and low amounts of two peptides. The inclusion of multiple types of menthol derivatives may make this irritating for the skin. However, they most likely act as a notable penetration enhancer. If I had to use this, I’d use it on body skin since it’s much less prone to irritation and would benefit from the penetration enhancement of menthol, due to increased thickness compared to facial skin.
  4. SD Intensive Concentrate (2 oz): This is a more emollient version of the Power Serum due to the presence of good amounts of shea butter; it contains 8% MN. Again, there is a small amount of peppermint oil and menthol, which will both act as penetration enhancers. They really aren’t THAT bad for the skin, and do not cause things like collagen degradation. No in vivo or in situ study confirms that claim.  
  5. Tightening Neck Cream (0.5 oz): This contains 5% MN in a shea butter, coconut fatty acids, and glycerin base. It’s a more emollient version of the Eye Concentrate.  
  6. Get Even Brightening Serum (0.25 oz): This contains 7% MN, along with ascorbyl glucoside, an ester form of vitamin C with limited studies that establish efficacy. There are also decent amounts of the calming willow bark and licorice extracts. These three ingredients all have some demonstrated capacity to lighten hyperpigmentation. There’s also a tiny amount of limonene, which is one of the best chemical penetration enhancers available on the market today.
Overall: The products in this set rely on the powers of myristyl nicotinate, an ester form of nicotinic acid. In the post on nicotinic acid versus niacinamide, I concluded that the latter is more reliable and less expensive to use in topical formulations. I still stand by that conclusion. However, that doesn’t mean that nicotinic acid isn’t effective because it certainly is! This gift set is an excellent way to see how MN works for you, a friend, or a family member. Plus, the price and value of this set are undeniable. The various products are more suitable for drier skin types.

Clarins 7 Wonders Set ($48)

This gift set is great for people new to skin care and makeup!
This gift set allegedly carries a $111 value and contains the following products:
  1. One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser (2.6 oz): This is a decent cleanser that contains scrubbing beads for manual exfoliation; best for slightly dry to oily skin types.
  2. Toning Lotion with Camomile (3.4 oz): With the inclusion of sorbitol (a water-binding agent) and vitamin B5, this is a decent toner for drier skin types; it also contains the calming chamomile extract.
  3. Beauty Flash Balm (1 oz): There’s nothing spectacular about the formulation, other than that it is a foundation primer that leaves a beautiful radiant finish. It gets a lot of press for being an effective “pick-me-up” for dull skin based Sephora ratings and the renowned makeup artist, Lisa Eldridge. Seeing as this product alone costs $45 for 1.7 oz, this set is a great way to try this hyped product at a much more affordable price.
  4. Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector (0.15 oz): This is a sheer-tinted lip gloss-type product that’s perfect for those new to makeup.
  5. Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch (0.13 oz): This is a spackle-textured foundation primer that’s great for temporarily filling in pores. I have personally used this and I like it a lot; though I don’t use any foundation primer anymore.
  6. Moisture-Rich Body Lotion (3.4 oz): This is an emollient body lotion that unfortunately doesn’t contain any beneficial and strictly non-moisturizing ingredient other than shea butter.
  7. Hand and Nail Treatment Cream (1.7 oz): The best characteristic of this “hand” cream is a cosmetic one: that it moisturizes well without being greasy; making it great for the hands. However, like the Body Lotion, it doesn’t contain any notable ingredient.
Overall: This gift set is best geared towards those who are relatively new to skin care and makeup, and want to try a few “bestsellers” like the Beauty Flash Balm. This gift set represents an acceptable daily skin care and makeup “priming” routine for those with dry to combination oily skin types. Again, the value of this set is undeniable.

Clinique Uneven Skin Tone Concern Kit ($49.50)

This gift set is great for those dealing with mild hyperpigmentation! It's my favorite set of the bunch!
This gift set allegedly carries a $70 value and contains the following products:
  1. Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector (1 oz): This contains a high amount of the same vitamin C ester present in the StriVectin gift set: ascorbyl glucoside. There are also good amounts of the anti-inflammatories and antioxidants turmeric, and skullcap. Also present is the calming cucumber extract.
  2. Even Better Skin Tone Correcting Lotion SPF 20 (0.5 oz): This once again contains good to decent amounts of ascorbyl glucoside, as well as cucumber, pomegranate, and caffeine. The UV filters are organic-based and provide decent UVA and UVB protection; there’s no octinoxate to interfere with the avobenzone content. Octocrylene is also present to stabilize the avobenzone via triplet energy quenching.
  3. 7 Day Scrub Rinse-Off Cream (1 oz): This is a very good creamy scrub that’s gentle and effective. From personal experiences, along with the Laura Mercier Face Polish, this is one of my favorite department store offerings for manual exfoliation. It’s not something I use in my routine, but it’s still a great option.
Overall: This is one of the best skin care gifts sets that I’ve encountered. It’s appropriate for all skin types, especially those dealing with mild hyperpigmentation, and is my favorite in terms of price, value, packaging, and efficacy.

Skin Care Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Conclusion

If I HAD to rank these gift sets, the Clinique would come in first, followed closely by the StriVectin. The Clarins would be a more distant third. However, I reiterate that I’d be content to receive, or could see myself buying these gift sets for someone else. I hope this was fun and please share your favorite holiday skin care gifts sets! Finally, please take the time to enter my giveaway that includes the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, and 10+ different mascaras! The giveaway will close after Christmas!
By: John Su
Date: December 20 2012 at 1:06 PM
Skin Care, ascorbyl glucoside, Christmas, clarins, clinique, estee lauder, Myristyl Nicotinate, NIA24, niacinamide, nicotinic acid, Shopping, strivectin

Comments (4)

  1. Cath
    December 21 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Want! Been eyeballing the clinique set for awhile. May have to pull the trigger soon. Thanks for the suggestions.

  2. John Su
    December 22 2012 at 7:28 PM

    @Cath Yes, do pick it up and let us know what you think! :) Thanks fo reading.

  3. Alejandra
    December 23 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Hi John, this post comes on time, Ive been putting together a drugstore set of products as a gift for my mom -cleanser, night moisturizer, moisturizer with spf, etc.- and was thinking about adding a retinol product, Roc multi correxion night treatment. But since vitamin C and retinol dont match that well Im still hesitating (besides some reviews says it has too much fragrance), do you think its a good product? I leave you the ingredients list: Water, Isononyl Isononanoate, Glycerin, Steareth 2, Ascorbic Acid, Dimethicone, Cetyl Palmitate, PEG 8, Sorbitan Stearate, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, Steareth 21, Cyclopentasiloxane, Retinol, Copper Gluconate, Magnesium Aspartate, Zinc Gluconate, Panthenol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Caprylyl Glycol, Methyparaben, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Bisabolol, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Propylparaben, Xantham Gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyl Dimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Sucrose Cocoate, Squalane, BHT, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 60, Lactoferrin, May Also Contain:, Sodium Hydroxide. Ive been away for a while so Im just catching up on your posts, thank you!

  4. John Su
    December 23 2012 at 11:45 PM

    @Alejandra I'm glad that this post could be of some help to you! Now, it's not that retinol and vitamin C aren't chemically compatible. It's just the fact that vitamin C products require a low pH (of about less than 3.5) in order to properly penetrate into the skin. And the optimal pH for retinol metabolism is much higher at about (6.x). So in order for BOTH ingredients to work at their top capacity, it's best to use them separately. Keep in mind that vitamin C only refers to L-ascorbic acid, not any of its derivatives. Okay, I don't know the pH of this product. So I can't tell you which ingredient is "working" optimally. However, this is one of the most popular and effective (based on personal reviews) retinol products from the drugstore and I'd say go ahead and get it for your mom. What is there to lose? I wouldn't go so far as to say this is the best retinol product period, but it (probably) is one of the better ones. As for the fragrance factor.... well how potent something smells varies from person to person. Therefore, I'd suggest asking how well your mom tolerates fragrances. Perhaps her answer will help gauge where as to where she falls on the tolerability spectrum. And can I say that it's so thoughtful to craft together a DIY skin care gift set! Nice work and I hope that helps! :)

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