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.™



Orpheus and I are always up before the crack of dawn!

Orpheus and I are always up before the crack of dawn!

Call me crazy but I wake up every morning somewhere between 4:30 and 5 am. Without an alarm clock. Unless you count Orpheus, my cat! There’s certainly no oversleeping in the Sky Pad BK.

For sure, we’re living a happy, fulfilled life in our new home. And even though a combo of CBD and magnesium citrate usually knocks me out so I wake up well-rested, I don’t always wake up glowing. Often, a migraine will prevent me from sleeping well. That always shows in my complexion as “WTF was that?!” in the morning.

If you don’t have to contend with migraines or sleeplessness, factors like climate can also play a big part in how healthy and radiant your skin looks in the morning. If it’s super cold outside, the dry air around us sucks hydration and the very life out of our skin. In both winter and summer, the use of a heater or air conditioner also dries skin out.

But there’s a fun, easy solution to all of it: skincare. Without doubt, adjusting your skincare routine every season is the smartest way to maintain your skin health year-round. I used to joke that I would age an entire year in winter alone. By March, I’d look a full year older. (I was only half kidding!) Until I really started to practice seasonal skincare habits, I was at the mercy of the weather. Alternating between a heavier and lighter moisturizer or facial oil from season to season is a start. It’s essential to maintain the right levels of oil-based moisture in the skin. And, of course, hydrated skin is healthy skin. In addition to maintaining the right oil balance, you’ve got to be sure your skin has the water it needs to stay healthy, too. To do that, an effective, well-formulated humectant-rich serum is everything. I consider employing these two tactics as basic skin care; call it Skincare 101.


Consider stepping up your game.

What if incorporating one simple skincare product before bed meant you always wake up glowing? It takes just one. My secret is an overnight acid treatment. No, I’m not talking about taking a quaalude before turning out the lights. (For the record, I’ve never even taken quaaludes!)

I’m talking about an AHA-, BHA- or PHA-powered sleeping mask or overnight treatment. I’ve identified four unique formulas — all powered by effective acids, all overnight treatments that supercharge your glow while you sleep. Some are more potent than others. There’s a Glycolic Acid-infused cult product at the high performance end of the spectrum and one with kinda newish-to-skincare, less irritating Polyhydroxy Acid at the other end.

Let’s have a look at what it takes to wake up glowing!

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum


I’ll start here, at the high-performance end of the spectrum. The Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum is serious stuff. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a love-hate relationship with Glycolic Acid — as many people do. I love the glow inducing results and hate the sensitizing side effects. As the smallest of the six Alpha Hydroxy Acid molecules, glycolic is the most potent and thus has the most most potential for irritation.

Quickly, AHA’s are a group of natural acids commonly found in fruits and foods. They include Glycolic Acid (derived from sugar cane), Lactic Acid (derived from milk and tomato juice), Malic Acid (derived from apples), Tartaric Acid (derived from grapes), Citric Acid (derived from multiple citrus fruits), and Mandelic Acid (derived from almonds).

There’s an excellent article with a thorough breakdown of each of the six molecules on the Paula’s Choice website called, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) for Skin: What They Are, How They Work here.

Of Glycolic Acid itself, my skincare muse Paula Begoun says this:

“Among all of the alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid is the gold standard. That’s because it’s the most researched and, along with lactic acid, has the best track record of impressive results for all ages and all skin types. What makes glycolic acid so special is its size and ability to penetrate the uppermost layers of built-up skin to reveal the better-looking skin hiding beneath. It also has a natural ability to hydrate skin, ‘teaching’ it to become better at retaining its natural moisture.”


The first time I tried Drunk Elephant’s cult favorite Glycolic Acid serum, I hardly woke up glowing! I woke up red as hell with what could best be described as a burning rash. The skin on my forehead was screaming! That was two or three years ago — my IRL experience of the first potent Glycolic Acid treatment I’d ever used. I have never forgotten it. Much like I’ve never forgotten being mauled by all those dogs on my morning paper delivery route as a teenager. Live and learn, as my mother always told me.

I appreciate Drunk Elephant’s usage warnings about T.L.C., but why not get right to the point in just a few words?

I suggest: Be careful with this stuff. It can burn your face off.

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Drunk Elephant hardly gets to the point here…

So while it’s super popular, Drunk Elephant’s overnight Glycolic Acid serum has a bit of a learning curve. You gotta go easy at first — and keep going easy with it to get all the results and none of the drawbacks.


The “clean” Drunk Elephant formula contains a 12% complex of AHA and BHA — with Glycolic Acid at position number two in the ingredient list and Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid and Citric Acid all in the top ten. Sure, there are soothing humectants, botanical extracts and non-fragrant plant oils. Plus, high up are Glycerin, Green Tea Extract and Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer — a form of Hyaluronic Acid that I described in depth in my recent blog about the modern apothecary brand Skin Regimen. Of course, Drunk Elephant was founded on the ingredient Marula Oil, indigenous to South Africa and believed to get grazing elephants drunk. So that’s in there, too. Though I wouldn’t recommend using this drunk, you’ll certainly wake up glowing if you do.


Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask

I love watermelon.

But I wouldn’t think about putting it on my face before bed any more than I would douse my skin in orange juice. As full of vitamins and hydration as watermelon is, it’s just so sticky! And maybe that’s the first thing about this gooey, magnificent pink treat that Glow Recipe got right: they somehow managed to get all the annoying things about watermelon out, like the stickiness and the seeds. What’s left is all the goodness; and most importantly, the silky, refreshing hydration you get from a slice of watermelon.


I also love Glow Recipe! 

Founded by former colleagues of mine at Kiehl’s and L’Oreal, Glow Recipe is an online purveyor of natural Korean skin care. They literally got their start on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank. And while I've been known to hit pause and order products in the middle of an episode, I only learned about the Shark Tank appearance long after I discovered the amazing things Glow Recipe was doing to demystify K-Beauty.

Glow Recipe gets props for opening my eyes to Korean skin care in the first place, introducing me to all kinds of innovative product forms, formulas, ingredients and brands. Seriously, they demystified it all. Without Glow Recipe, I wouldn't know what the 7 Skin Method is (if you don’t know yet, read all about it here.). Without them, I wouldn’t know that a rubber mask contains no actual rubber; and, certainly wouldn’t have discovered my fave overnight mask — the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask.


Sure, as the name implies, there’s plenty of watermelon fruit in the formula. But I love that the second ingredient after water is Sodium Hyaluronate — the salt form of humectant Hyaluronic Acid that’s more skin compatible. Third is another tried-and-true humectant, Glycerin. Fourth is Caulerpa Lentillifera Extract, a form of seaweed. Google it and you’ll find this: “the antioxidant activity of siphonaxanthin extracted from Caulerpa lentillifera could be stronger than that of astaxanthin.” Stronger than astaxanthin. Serious stuff!

And then come the resurfacing acids in the form of both Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid — in addition to a whole slew of enzymatic fruit acids. Oh, and like the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. treatment, Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask receives the Clean at Sephora seal.

After going through five or six jars of it since it launched, it’s now apparent that I just love the formula! If you haven’t had a chance to discover it for yourself yet, what are you waiting for? You’ve got some catching up to do!


Amperna 10% Pro-Resurfacing Lotion

Amperna was the first full-range probiotic skincare brand I came across. And I had to reach across the world to the land Down Under to find it. (Oops, now I’m not gonna be able to get that 80s Men at Work song out of my head.)

It was well worth the trip.


I’ve been using Amperna’s innovative products for nearly two years now. Like so many of my best skincare discoveries since, I found Amperna thru my Skincarma IG page. That’s where I first met Kiri Yanchenko, the incredibly passionate founder of the Australian probiotic-powered Amperna brand. She’s a true skincare soul mate, a friend — and die-hard supporter of Skincarma.

The Amperna story began five years ago, when Kiri suddenly started to struggle with adult acne, having had no particular acne issues as a teen. I don’t believe she’s alone, as adult acne is becoming increasingly common and a vexing concern for so many women and men in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Kiri’s case was an acute one, related to specific health issues. She found that the acne treatment products available to her caused her sensitized skin to react even further. To temper her skin’s reactivity, Kiri sought extremely gentle skin care made with powerful actives that would deliver the kind of results she wanted for her skin, but without common irritants like sulfates, parabens and fragrance.


So she set out to create her own skin care with the help of a knowledgable chemist. Developed with an active probiotic complex at the heart of her formulas, Amperna probiotic skin care from Australia was born.

As I said earlier, many people have a difficult time with Glycolic Acid. And a 10% glycolic treatment would normally be a turn-off. But, consider that the Amperna 10% Pro-Resurfacing Lotion is formulated with something of a buffer in the form of the brand’s proprietary probiotic complex. At ingredient number three after water and the Glycolic Acid itself, is Lactococcus Ferment Lysate — that soothing probiotic. In addition, there’s power brightener and star of Korean traditional “Hanbang” medicine, Liquorice Root Extract. Squalane, derived from olives and Panthenol (aka Vitamin B5) add additional buffering comfort to skin while you sleep.


Unlike that Drunk Elephant experience from hell, I’ve never woken up with red, irritated or sensitized skin Amperna’s AHA solution.

Amperna gets right to the point here:

“Our 10% Pro+ Resurfacing Lotion is the first chemical exfoliant to market that has been specially formulated for use by first time users and even the most sensitive skins.”

Remember what I said about Kiri being a die-hard fan and friend of Skincarma? Look just below. (Thank you, Kiri!)


Use code SKINCARMA15 to receive 15% off the AMPERNA 10% PRO+ RESURFACING LOTION! Follow the link below to the Amperna site and use the exclusive code.


Skin Regimen Night Detox

I’ve been smitten with Skin Regimen’s modern apothecary aesthetic now for weeks. I declared as much in my recent blog review of the brand here. As I said, I think the Skin Regimen Night Detox is the brand’s unsung hero. But, “Night Detox” isn’t quite what I’d call it. It seems overly simplistic and may even miss the point — which is that it’s the perfect formula so you wake up glowing! Setting aside the fact that topical treatments cannot detoxify the skin (detoxifying the body is performed by our livers), the Skin Regimen Night Detox is a surface-exfoliating, moisture-replenishing, antioxidant-infusing overnight treatment that works throughout the night to perk up the complexion by morning.


They should just call it Surface-Exfoliating, Moisture-Replenishing, Antioxidant-Infusing Overnight Treatment.

Comprised of 98.7% natural-origin ingredients, its key technology and most intriguing active ingredient is Gluconolactone — a Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) that is chemically and functionally similar to AHAs. But, because the PHA molecule is much larger than the Glycolic Acid or Lactic molecules, it doesn't penetrate as deeply and, thus, has a reduced potential for irritation — particularly in sensitive skin.

According to Paula, “polyhydroxy acids can also function as antioxidants and may promote some amount of improvement in skin’s surface strength.”

In addition to intriguing Gluconolactone, the formula contains high levels of humectant Glycerin and moisturizing Shea Butter as well as several antioxidant oils and extracts. It has a thick, balm-like texture that forms a light “second skin” that holds it in place. It’s still quite noticeable on my skin in the morning, with no discernible residue on the pillow. I love how soft and refreshed my complexion looks the morning after.


Interestingly, Skin Regimen recommends using it in “a cycle of 28 days every 3 months.” I didn’t (and wouldn’t) use it for 28 straight days (is there enough in the jar for that?!) — but it sure would be an interesting experiment!


And for Skincarma bonus points…

Eighth Day Facial Tonic

I had no idea what to expect from indie dermatologist brand Eighth Day. Once I got past the biblical reference inherent in the name, I could focus on the formulas.

But first, about that brand name.

Eighth Day says, “a new day begins with 
bio-identical ingredients.”
The brand is the brainchild of dermatologic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Tony Nakhla. Eighth Day formulas are all infused with a powerful blend of bio-identical proteins that are used in the highest concentrations. That sounds like real skincare innovation to me. And this acid toner brings it in spades!

On the surface, the Eighth Day Facial Tonic seems like just another glycolic toner. But it’s way more potent, complex and effective than that. I know from experience. I apply all toners, including acid-based ones, with my palms. It originated from my need to avoid having to pick pieces of cotton out of my beard. But it also means that I tend to use more toner than I would if I were sweeping it over my skin with a cotton pad. And Eighth Day’s acid toner needs to be applied in measured doses — especially if you’re planning to end your PM regimen with an overnight acid treatment. But, if your skin can handle it, go for it.


Okay, guys. You now have the tools you need to wake up glowing. Now go out and make it happen.

Sweet dreams…




The Ingredient List of the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum:

Water, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Buddleja Davidii Meristem Cell Culture, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Galactoarabinan, Propanediol, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Nitrate, Potassium Sorbate, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate.

The Ingredient List of the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask:

Water, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycerin, Caulerpa Lentillifera (Seaweed) Extract, Simethicone, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit, Silica, Propanediol, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Fruit Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Fruit Extract, Musa Sapientum (Banana) Fruit Extract , Paeonia Suffruticosa (Peony) Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Brassica Oleracea Capitata (Cabbage) Leaf Extract, Ipomoea Batatas (Sweet Potato) Root Extract, Betaine, Beta Glucan, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Alcohol, Fragrance.

The Ingredient List of the Amperna 10% Pro+ Resurfacing Lotion:

Aqua, Glycolic Acid, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerine, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Sodium-L-Lactate, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Liquorice) Root Extract, Olive Squalane, Sorbitan Stearate, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Menthyl Lactate, Allantoin, Urea, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Titanium Dioxide, Xanthan Gum, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Hydroxide, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

The Ingredient List of the Skin Regimen Night Detox:

Aqua / Water / Eau*, Glycerin*, Propanediol*, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter / Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride*, Gluconolactone*, Cetearyl Isononanoate*, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Cetyl Alcohol*, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil*, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Zea Mays Starch / Zea Mays (Corn) Starch*, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Hydroxide, Juniperus Virginiana Oil*, Hexyldecanol*, Hexyldecyl Laurate*, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aristotelia Chilensis Fruit Extract*, Carnosine, Disodium Edta, Spinacia Oleracea Leaf Extract / Spinacia Oleracea (Spinach) Leaf Extract*, Hydrogenated Lecithin*, Xanthan Gum*, O-Cymen-5-Ol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Juniperus Phoenicea Gum Extract*, Yeast Extract*, Citric Acid, Tephrosia Purpurea Seed Extract*, Copaifera Officinalis Resin / Copaifera Officinalis (Balsam Copaiba) Resin*, Caprylyl Glycol, Aniba Rosodora Wood Oil / Aniba Rosodora (Rosewood) Wood Oil*, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.

The Ingredient List of the Eighth Day Facial Tonic:

Water (Aqua), Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Seed Extract, Cucumis Sativus Fruit Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana Bark/Leaf/Twig Extract, Gluconolactone, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Zingiber Officinale Root Extract, Plumeria Acutifolia Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Orchis Morio Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Isopulegol, Vanillyl Butyl Ether, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate.