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.™

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For the past year, Sephora has been collaborating with its skincare brand partners to identify formulas as “clean beauty.” What exactly clean means can waver, depending on the retailer and the brand. But Sephora has established a standard — and even an identifying seal that designates specific products that comply with their definition of clean beauty. 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.

Sephora’s definition of “clean”.

Sephora’s definition of “clean”.

Brands have been working to expunge their formulas of these potentially toxic ingredients for several years now. When I was working at Kiehl’s, as early as 2008 there were conversations about reformulating many of the brand’s most popular products without parabens and sulfates.


In fact, just this year, Kiehl’s relaunched its best-selling Ultra Facial Cream sans parbens. Ultra Facial Cream was one of my favorite projects over my eight years working on the brand. At the time, we’d been sponsoring a team of athletes and mountain climbers (sadly, I'll never be a mountain climber) on their adventures around the world. Why not give them lab samples of this new moisturizer to torture test on their climb of Greenland's icy peaks? When they returned, they reported that the formula had kept their skin from drying out in the coldest, harshest conditions they'd faced.

What better way to honor their heroism than to dedicate the product to them. Until the recent paraben-free unveiling of Ultra Facial Cream, there was a tiny map of Greenland on the back of the jar in honor of their achievement. New Ultra Facial cream is now formulated without parabens, carbamide, T.E.A. — and Greenland!


Back to Sephora! By my count, there are now 57 entire skincare brands that are designated as clean by the beauty retailer. Among them new, popular indie brands like Drunk Elephant, Farmacy, Herbivore, Tata Harper and Tatcha. But there are also several more established brands on the list, including Origins, Korres and Caudalie. It’s surprising to me that there aren’t more of these “established” companies making the cut. Where are the clinical brands? K-Beauty brands? I’m sure the conversations are being had. Huge shifts like clean skin care take time. In fact, while Sephora has currently identified just 13 ingredients that have to go, an additional 22 ingredients are on the hot list for designation by July of this year. 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.

Clean at Sephora

“When you spot our Clean seal, you can be sure we’ve checked that this brand’s product is made without the ingredients you told us you’d most like to avoid.”

So, it was high time they cleaned up their own act! I mean if you’re going to have a “Clean at Sephora” seal, you’d think your own skin care would be covered by the designation, too. Not all of the Sephora Collection skin care is clean by Sephora’s own standards — but ten of the brand’s new products are. And, I love how affordable they are! Each of the moisturizers — the Nourishing Moisturizer, All Day Hydrator, and Brightening Eye Cream are just $16 and they’re all clean. As well as the new super soothing, hydrating Clean Skin Gel cleanser!

Sephora Collection Nourishing Moisturizer - Hydrate & Repair


The Sephora Collection clean Nourishing Moisturizer is formulated to nourish, repair and soften skin. And it does just that. It’s got a thick, whipped texture that I wasn’t expecting, but I shouldn’t be surprised given that it’s rich in non-fragrant plant oils that my skin loves. (Yours will too!) Plant oils like Avocado Oil, Marula Oil and Rose Hip Seed Oil. The Nourishing Moisturizer formula is vegan, too, and made with 91% natural plant ingredients. There’s so much that’s intriguing and fresh here. With its multitude of vitamins, botanical extracts and non-fragrant plant oils, at $16 you can’t go wrong. In fact, I can’t find anything particularly wrong with this product — aside from a low level of fragrance, which is completely undetectable. It smells like nothing — which I find so refreshing!

Sephora Collection All Day Hydrator - Hydrate & Glow


On the lighter side, the Sephora Collection clean All Day Hydrator is quite a lightweight, runny lotion that feels perfect on skin on a warmer day like today is in New York City. Spring has finally sprung! Similar to the richer Nourishing Moisturizer, it’s well-formulated; a better formulation, in my opinion. The first five ingredients are Hyaluronic Acid Derived From Wheat, Vitamin C, Vitamin E of Natural Origin from Sunflower Blossom, Glycerin Of Natural Origin and, of course, Water. I think it’s both unusual and interesting that Sephora doubled up on these “natural origin” ingredient call-outs with regular old Glycerin, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Hyaluronic Acid, and even Ascorbyl Glucoside — a stable form of Vitamin C that’s combined with glucose and, when absorbed into skin, breaks down to Ascorbic Acid, the purest, most potent form of the antioxidant vitamin. If you don’t like or want a heavy, oil-rich moisturizer, the new All Day Hydrator is a great option. If you don’t like or want to spend more than $20 on a daily moisturizer, its $16 price makes it a perfect option!

Did I mention that it’s clean?


Sephora Collection Brightening Eye Cream – Hydrate & Depuff

The Sephora Collection Brightening Eye Cream is formulated to hydrate thinner skin around the eyes, reduce the appearance of dark circles, and deflate puffiness — my biggest concern for my eye area. It’s the Italian curse! Considering all the wine the Romans imbibed in their weekend orgies, I’ll bet puffiness was a big concern for them, too.


With its light, fast-absorbing gel-cream texture, this one is a bit of a departure from the All-Day Hydrator’s ingredient intrigue. Just conventional Glycerin, Tocopherol, and Sodium Hyaluronate here. Nothing wrong with that, but I was having so much fun with those exotic sounding variations. It makes the ingredient list a little boring. But, as I’ve said before, great skincare isn’t supposed to be sexy. That’s just marketing. Brightening Eye Cream has a few antioxidants in it, but it’s no protective powerhouse. Yes, I love the depuffing caffeine, but it’s not at a very high level and I didn’t notice much difference. There is one really bizarre ingredient called Mudar Plant Bark Extract. I had to look this one up!

“Mudar root bark is the common form of Calotropis procera that you will find in India. It is made by drying the root and then removing the cork bark. In India the plant is also used to treat leprosy and elephantiasis. Mudar root is also used for diarrhea and dysentery.”

I don’t know about all that, but deeper Googling revealed that it’s an effective anti-inflammatory. I think the Romans would have loved a jar of this stuff!


Sephora Collection Clean Skin Gel – Cleanse & Tone

Oh, how I love a good cleanser. Cleansing, period. It’s may favorite skincare step! So naturally I was super excited to try the new Sephora Collection Clean Skin Gel with its non-toxic formulation and 99% naturally derived ingredients. There are literally just 11 ingredients in the whole formula, and I’m having fun trying to figure out what isn’t natural. I have to assume it’s the fragrance. But no matter, this lightweight, syrupy cleanser does the trick.


As one of the new clean products in the Sephora Collection, it’s nice to know there are no damaging, compromising toxins here as you massage it into your skin. A clean cleanse is so important to a healthy skincare regimen. Like all of these new clean formulas, it’s super affordable at just $10 for a 125ml tube. Nourishing Aloe Vera and humectant Glycerin give it a springy, bouncy texture that feels so good on the skin. Coconut esters lightly emulsify without stripping. It’s just a nice, fresh, confident clean. Oh, and the tube? It’s made from 62% plastic from sugar cane residue.

I’m so intrigued by and even grateful for these new, clean, affordable, well-formulated products. I love Tata Harper as much as anyone, but her range of clean cleansers, serums, moisturizers and on and on are just not accessible for most people. I have no interest in paying $82 for a cleanser. The fact that these new Sephora products are so accessible means the democratization of clean skin care.

Even the Romans would appreciate that. Carpe diem! Get your hands on these now.



The Ingredient List of the Sephora Collection Nourishing Moisturizer:

Water, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Isononyl Isononanoate, C10-18 Triglycerides, Decyl Oleate, Isostearyl Isostearate, Glyceryl Oleate Citrate, Stearyl Heptanoate, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate, Sorbitan Olivate, Stearyl Caprylate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Rosa Rubiginosa Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Squalane, Hydroxyacetophenone, Carbomer, Hydrogenated Rapeseed Oil, Fragrance, Tocopherol, Butylene Glycol, Gellan Gum, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, O-Cymen-5-Ol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Polyacrylate, Polysorbate 60, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Isostearate, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid.

The Ingredient List of the Sephora Collection All Day Hydrator:

Hyaluronic Acid Derived From Wheat, Vitamin C, Vitamin E Of Natural Origin From Sunflower Blossom, Glycerin Of Natural Origin, Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Heptyl Undecylenate, Glyceryl Stearate, Peg-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Hydroxyacetophenone, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Caprylyl Glycol, Perfume, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Vitamin E, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Hyaluronic Acid, Bisabolol, Sodium Benzoate, Cellulose Gum, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Isostearate, Sodium Phytate, Physicochemical Formula Stabilizer, Arginine, Ascorbyl Glucoside.

The Ingredient List of the Sephora Collection Brightening Eye Cream:

Water Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Heptyl Undecylenate, Butylene Glycol (naturally derived from sugar cane), Silica, Jojoba Esters, C10-18 Triglycerides, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract, Sodium Polyacrylate, Hydroxyacetophenone, Caffeine, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopherol, Fragrance, Sodium Hyaluronate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Isostearate, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Sodium Phytate, Siegesbeckia Orientalis Extract, D8.

The Ingredient List of the Sephora Collection Clean Skin Gel:

Water, Coco-Glucoside, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Sodium PCA, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Extract, Sodium Hydroxide.