welcome to SKINCARMA!

These are the musings of a skincare junkie + writer + brand guru with 25+ years of product wisdom put into action to demystify skin care. 

You can change your skin’s destiny.™

I’m obsessed with skincare ingredients!

I’m obsessed with skincare ingredients!

I'm obsessed with my skin care. I don’t mean skincare products, I mean the care of my skin with the products I use on my own face. Contrary to what you may think, I won't try just anything I come across! Yeah, I threw that rule out with the snail mucin debacle. I regret it and I’ve learned from it! Whether a product is gifted to me by a brand or I discover it myself on-shelf at Sephora, every ingredient list is closely examined. I know too much about skincare formulas to know what's going to work, what's not going to work, and most importantly, what's not good for my skin — or anyone else's skin for that matter.

I'm no fan of denatured alcohol, for instance, believing in the preponderance of evidence that not only is it drying to skin, but that it's actually damaging to the delicate skin barrier and thus pro-aging over time. My skincare muse, Paula Begoun, has done substantial research on the effects of volatile alcohol on skin and the skin barrier. You can read it here.  And, I view fragrant plant “essential” oils like lavender, eucalyptus, bergamot and the dreaded peppermint, in much the same way. These are essentially fragrance.

I’m no fan of denatured alcohol in my skin care!

I’m no fan of denatured alcohol in my skin care!

And fragrance isn’t skin care.

To varying degrees, and depending on the levels in a particular formula, they can be irritating to skin. And in the case of lavender oil, can compromise the skin barrier over time — much like denatured alcohol does.

All of this informs my awareness about what’s actually proven to be both damaging to our skin and worse — toxic to our bodies. One of the positive skincare trends that’s caught on in a big way is non-toxic formulas — clean products made without anything that’s been proven to be toxic to humans, or suspected to be.


More than a year ago now, Sephora introduced an entire skincare category called Clean Beauty that attempts to distinguish products that are determined to be toxin-free. Currently, Sephora identifies 13 ingredients as unclean — meaning that products without these initial 13 ingredients can receive the coveted designation. Among the ingredient horrors are several that have been found in skin care for decades, including sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, formaldehydes, and triclosan. That list will expand by an additional 22 suspect ingredients this summer. Among those are many more obscure toxins like ethyl acrylate, aluminum salts, dioxane and resorcinol. In 2020, there are plans to add more to the list of no-no’s: PEGS, silicones, EDTA and even chemical sunscreens in addition to oxybenzone, which is currently shunned.


While retailers like Sephora and Credo drive the broad availability of clean skincare products, several direct-to-consumer brands were early to the game — and, I believe, were the true ground breakers. One stands out to me…

Meet Pure Haven!

With a heavy emphasis on education, indie skincare brand Pure Haven is doing something that I can really get behind. The company’s mission "is to educate consumers about pure, safe, alternative personal care choices that empower people to live the healthiest lifestyle possible."

If I can use well-formulated skin care that’s both pro-skin health and proven non-toxic, why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t you?

That’s the same decision we all face when choosing between “organic” fruits and vegetables and, well, fruits and vegetables that aren’t guaranteed to be free of toxic pesticides.


I was recently gifted an entire skincare regimen from Pure Haven — and though I’d reviewed several of their products previously, I’d moved on to other things. I forgot how awesome the formulas were! And, after so recently trying the new, clean Sephora Collection products, it was interesting to have a whole new perspective on Pure Haven. The brand’s products really are of high quality and their position on non-toxic formulas is genuine.

There is an excellent glossary on the Pure Haven site of the ingredients they consider toxic or potentially toxic. Categorized as ingredients to avoid, what I love about the way the information is laid out is that each suspicious ingredient is listed along with information about “why it’s considered harmful.” You can also download a PDF guide of Pure Haven's comprehensive list of toxins here.


Under the collection name Refresh, I tried the Pure Haven Refresh cleanser, toner,  moisturizer, night serum, and eye cream. I found all of the formulas to be reliably effective. I'm especially fond of the richly replenishing night serum with carrot oil. The formula is a skincare treasure trove of skin-replenishing plant oils like rice bran oil, meadowfoam seed oil, organic sunflower oil, carrot root oil — and ubiqinone (COQ10), a vitamin-like, fat-soluble substance naturally present in the body that has unique antioxidant benefits. Of course, I don’t care for the inclusion of fragrant pink grapefruit essential oil, the only potentially irritating fragrant plant oil in the formula.(Fragrance isn’t skin care, remember?!) But it’s crowded out by so many good-for-skin oils that I’m willing to let this one slide. It’s a solid moisturizing oil that nourishes skin throughout the night — as a well-formulated oil is expected to.


I wish the eye cream weren’t packaged in a jar, where the formula is exposed to air and bacteria every time the lid is removed. While it’s also loaded with replenishing, moisturizing plant oils and extracts, any of the sensitive antioxidant benefits of the natural extracts immediately begin to diminish the first time it’s opened and exposed to oxygen — and every morning and evening, it is exposed anew.

Hey, Pure Haven, please consider repackaging this deliciously formulated eye cream in an airless pump or tube!

My eye area needs all the efficacious antioxidants it can get. 

But there’s really something about the Pure Haven refresh cleanser that I hadn’t been able to put my finger on at first. The formula feels like a “gel cleansing water,” which makes no sense, right? It’s that unusual! I obsessed over its uber-light, barely emulsifying texture. I literally got excited in the morning to wash my face with it! Then one morning, mid-cleanse, it finally hit me. Because it’s a non-toxic formula, it’s extraordinarily clean and pure — the purest cleanser I’ve likely ever used. It reminds me a bit of the new Sephora Collection Clean Skin Gel that I reviewed recently here. And I love both of these formulas! The first ingredient in the Refresh Cleanser is aloe barbadensis juice, followed by coco glucoside — a vegetable origin coconut and palm oil-derived cleansing ester that’s low-foaming, biodegradable and super mild on skin. What a treat!

Effective, non-toxic skin care is here to stay — and really well-formulated, clean products can be an absolute pleasure to use!



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The Ingredient List of the Pure Haven Refresh Cleanser:

aloe barbadensis (organic aloe vera) juice, coco glucoside, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, rosa damascena (organic rose) flower distillate, xanthan gum, punica granatum (organic pomegranate) seed oil, cucumis sativus (organic cucumber) extract, citrus paradisi (pink grapefruit) essential oil, medica limonum (organic lemon) essential oil, arctostaphylos uva-ursi (organic bearberry) leaf extract, citrus sinensis (organic sweet orange) essential oil, citric acid.

The Ingredient List of the Pure Haven Refresh Moisturizer:

aloe barbadensis (organic aloe vera) juice, cetearyl olivate (and) sorbitan olivate, royal jelly extract, oryza sativa (rice bran) oil, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, helianthus annuus (organic sunflower) oil, rosa damascene (organic rose) flower distillate, citrius sinensis (organic sweet orange) essential oil, punica granatum (organic pomegranate) seed oil, citrus paradisi (pink grapefruit) essential oil, medica limonum (organic lemon) essential oil, persea gratissima (organic avocado) oil, cocos nucifera (organic coconut) oil, camellia sinensis (organic green tea) extract.

The Ingredient List of the Pure Haven Refresh Night Serum:

oryza sativa (rice bran) oil, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, helianthus annuus (organic sunflower) oil, citrus paradisi (pink grapefruit) essential oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil (and) daucus carota sativa (carrot root) oil, hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) oil, ubiqinone (COQ10), rosa canina (rose hip) fruit extract.

The Ingredient List of the Pure Haven Refresh Eye Cream:

rosa damascena (organic rose) flower distillate, aloe barbadensis (organic aloe vera) juice, butyrospermum parkii (organic shea) butter, sodium olivoil glutamate (and) cetearyl alcohol (and) glyceryl stearate, vegetable glycerin (kosher, non GMO), prunus armeniaca (organic apricot) kernel oil, oenothera biennis (organic evening primrose) oil, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, stearic acid, xanthan gum, helianthus annuus (organic sunflower) oil, lavandula angustifolia (organic lavender) essential oil, pelargonium graveolens (geranium) oil, , helichrysum angustifolium (immortelle) oil, rosa damascena (rose) flower oil, calendula officinalis (marigold) flower oil.

The day I used up the Pure Haven refresh cleanser was indeed a sad one!

The day I used up the Pure Haven refresh cleanser was indeed a sad one!