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3 Exfoliating Masks for a Brighter Complexion

When I first got into more natural skincare, I always imagined that I would have to give up my new found love for chemical exfoliation. I was heavily attached to the iconic Alpha-H Liquid Gold and what it did for my skin. Unfortunately, not only are Alpha-H not up to my anti-animal testing standards, but Liquid Gold's ingredients aren't up to scratch either.

Fortunately, chemical exfoliation also exists in the natural skincare world and I continue to favour it over physical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliants are much more suited to my combo/oily skin type and they offer quick (but also longer lasting) results without the risk of micro-tears. Of course, you still need to proceed with care with chemical exfoliation but as long as you are careful, it's a safe and relatively easy method for seeing quick results.

I use chemical exfoliants relatively often - maybe 2-4 times a week - but I have oily/acneic skin and skin types like mine are naturally more resistant to over-exfoliation. If you have more normal or dry skin, I would suggest only using them once a week. However, oiler skin types can still get damaged and it is important to follow product instructions and pay attention to how your skin reacts. If you've never used a chemical exfoliant before, it is common practice to start with lighter use (maybe 10 mins once a week) until your skin is used to it and you know your own limits. A patch test is never a bad idea either. It's also EXTREMELY important to religiously use SPF if you use chemical exfoliants as they do temporarily affect your skin's sensitivity to the sun (but you should really be using SPF anyway).

So what is a chemical exfoliant?

'Chemical exfoliant' refers to any product that uses 'chemicals' as their method of exfoliation as opposed to physical particles such as oats or almond meal. These chemicals usually consist of acids like lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or a combination of a couple. Each acid has a slightly different effect on the skin. I've haven't had much experience with lactic acid, but I find glycolic to be mainly brightening & resurfacing and salicylic to be de-clogging and calming on acne.

Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask*

This beautiful Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask from old favourite Herbivore Botanicals is true luxury. The inclusion of blue tansy gives the mask and absolutely stunning blue colour and a spa-like scent, whereas the aloe vera base makes for a cooling and soothing texture. This mask's formulation is more liquid and so you only need a thin layer to see it working. I find this one to be gentler than the others but maybe overall more effective as this means I can apply it for longer and more often. This mask uses salicylic acid (in the form of willow bark extract) and various fruit acids and I find it most effective at calming cystic acne breakouts and healing them without any major scarring. This mask is great if you have skin prone to acne that can be sore and inflamed. 

Madara Brightening AHA Peel Mask*

The Madara Brightening AHA Peel Mask* is a great option if you prefer something easy and low maintenance. It's easy to wash off quickly and the small packaging and squeeze tube also makes it great for travel. In my experience, this is the middle ground when it comes to these masks. It is a little bit stronger than the Herbivore mask, meaning I don't usually leave it on longer than 15-20 minutes as it can be irritating. However, it's super effective at loosening up skin cells and my face is also super smooth after using it. This mask uses lactic acid and it's great for tired skin, ageing skin, or just when you need a little glow.

Bravura London Salicylic Acid 2%

Last but not least, we have the Bravura London Salicylic Acid 2%. In fact, this is the strongest of the bunch and can be more accurately described as a peel rather than a mask. This option is not strictly natural meaning that the acid involved is highly potent (and also highly effective). I turn to this when my skin is seriously playing up and calling out for a good de-clogging. This water-like formulation can be used in a variety of ways. It is marketed to be left on for about ten minutes and then washed off, but I have also used it as a leave-on spot treatment to great success. However, with this one I definitely suggest sticking to the instructions if you're a beginner and definitely patch testing if your skin can be sensitive. As mentioned this is truly calling in the big guns and works well on skin that is congested and/or acneic. 

What are your favourite brightening masks? 

This post contains affiliate links.

2016 Year in Review (including the best natural/vegan beauty!)

I understand that this is a little late, but it's finally time for my 2016 year in review post! 2016 was a good year for me personally (despite certain public events). I travelled to the Netherlands and Croatia, got my degree grades on track for my Masters application, and ended the year with a lovely 'stay-cation'; exploring the beautiful town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Blogging also went well this year. I feel like I managed to avoid any long breaks, I contributed something to the Peridot, and was asked to join a major blogging programme. So, without further ado, let's get on to the five most popular KV blog posts of 2016: 

1. Review: Schmidt's Natural Deodorant Stick
2. H&M Conscious Beauty... To Buy, or Not To Buy?
3. Review: Kypris Beauty Clearing Serum
4. Review: PHB Ethical Beauty Botanical BB Cream and Pure Skin Foundation
5. First Impressions: Pacifica Makeup

And of course, now on to the part we've all been waiting for, my top green/natural/vegan beauty picks of 2016!

Bravura London Salicylic Acid 2%
Despite being the only non-natural product on my list, the Bravura salicylic acid peel has probably made the biggest impression on my 2016 skincare routine. I have been struggling with closed comedones on my cheeks and jawline for the last two years and this product seems to be one of the only things that keeps them at bay. Natural sources of salicylic acid (like willow tree bark) were, in the beginning, no where near strong enough for my acneic skin. So, this gem has really made a difference and I am finding myself relying on it less and less - definitely making it one of my top skincare products of 2016.

Skin & Tonic Coco Mask*
I was lucky enough to receive this as a Christmas gift from Skin & Tonic in 2015 and I have been loving it ever since. It's a wonderful gentle - but potent - mask with a coconut milk powder base that makes it perfect for a little face mask alchemy. I love mixing this with a brightening face oil and rosewater.

Green People Beauty Boost Skin Restore*
I waxed lyrical about this product in a full review so I won't harp on too much but this is pretty much the only water-based moisturisier I can use on my face. I find most to be too heavy, but this is perfectly nourishing while still feeling light. I definitely prefer to use face oils but I occasionally follow with this when my skin is really dehydrated. It's also great under makeup as it dries to a relatively matte finish.

Brija Cosmetics Gilmore Girls Matte Eyeshadows
To be honest, the entire Brija Cosmetics makeup line blew me away in 2016 but my favourite products have to be the matte eyeshadows, inspired by Gilmore Girls. Brianna has the greatest range of colours and every shade blends beautifully. If you're struggling with finding good natural matte eyeshadows, then I urge you to try Brija. Trust me, the loose formulation and ordering from the US is worth it. I'll be doing some swatches soon!

Mallow & White Soothe Cleansing Oil* (& Vedani Botanicals No. 21 Cleanser!)
I was gifted this cleansing oil at Gorgeously Green Gathering this year and I really do love it. I generally prefer lighter cleansing oils (like my beloved Vedani Botanicals) and this option fits the bill perfectly. I find it works quite similarly to the Vedani and so I didn't feel the need to include both on this list (and I don't have a bottle of the Vedani at the moment) but definitely check them both out. I've already done a full review of the Vedani and have a review for Mallow & White coming very soon in 2017.

Pai Kukui & Jojoba Bead Skin Brightening Exfoliator*
This is 100% not a new product for me, but it's one that I have got some serious use out of in 2016. With my heightening use of acid products this year, my skin has occasionally looked a bit flaky. This is quickly remedied by Pai's wonderful exfoliator, a brilliant hybrid of physical and enzymatic exfoliants. I love using this in the shower (it can be a bit messy otherwise), and I'm not looking forward to it running out - which will probably be very soon.

Zuzu Luxe Liquid Eyeliner in Raven
I finally found the perfect vegan liquid eyeliner in 2016 in the form of Zuzu Luxe's Liquid Eyeliner in Raven. It's super popular in the US green beauty community and recently became available in the UK from Amazon. I was quick to try it and very quickly impressed. It's super easy for me to apply as the applicator is very similar to one I used in my teens, and it doesn't smudge too bad on me either. I'm currently loving a liquid eyeliner from Colorisi but this is the baby that saw me through 90% of the year.

Schmidt's Natural Deodorant Stick
This needs no introduction as my review actually made my most popular blog post of 2016. I've only ever tried two scents in this deodorant (the bergamot and lime being my favourite) so I can't speak for the whole line, but Schmidt's seems to be the only natural deodorant that has so far worked for me. They recently brought out a baking soda free version that I am super excited about (as I do get a little irritation these days) and I'm excited to try that one next.

What are your top five products for 2016? I would love to know!