Budget Skincare: Elf Hydrating Water Essence

So there I was on Ulta.com, 9 dollars short for free shipping.

I had everything that I wanted from Ulta, so now what ?  Luckily I had been on the hunt for a simple hydrating toner for a while. Something that would be a hydrating essence as such without the un-necessarily hyped up price tag.

While searching the site my top two affordable contenders for hydrating toners (without witch hazel, citrus or alcohol) were;Toner Ulta.001Mario Badescu was $15 and the ELF was $10. I popped the Elf into my cart and clicked through to ‘checkout’.

Yes I know ! I should have checked the ingredient list, instead of blindly filling my cart.

Because if I had I would have put the Mario Badescu Aloe toner, with its teeny tiny ingredient list, in my cart.  Aqua (Water, Eau), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium Chloride, Methylparaben, CI 19140 (Yellow 5), CI 42090 (Blue 1).

However Elf cosmetics is one of my most favourite makeup brands (cruelty free and vegan too) so I wasn’t kicking myself that much.

We all know that when Elf get it right they really hit it out of the ballpark. Their fabulous lip exfoliator for example. (Read about that here.)

And when I read the ingredient list on the Elf  Hydrating Water essence I was damned thrilled with myself. However please note the two PEGs lower down the ingredient list.Elf Water Essence (1)

PEGs are Polyethylene Glycols.  Not to be confused with ethylene glycol, the notorious antifreeze ingredient, and a favourite with would-be murderers, as Forensic Files will tell you.

As far as PEGs are concerned I belong to the Beautypedia/Paula Begoun camp which means I am not that bothered (PEGs).

I do not think the type (and molecular weight ) of PEGs in my skincare, by well established companies, are a cause for concern as far as I am concerned for me personally.

PEGS and Glycols are basically fatty acids and fatty alcohols that function as surfactants, emollients, binding agents, stabilizers, emulsifiers and cleansing agents.

However trying to decipher the difference between the various glycols turned my brain to mush.

Once you decide that PEGs and Glycols are not the Anti-Christ one is left to wonder if all glycols created the same. What is the verdict when you pit them against each other ? PEGs v/s Butylene Glycol v/s Pentylene Glycol v/s Dipropylene Glycol v/s Caprylyl Glycol.

Damn I wish I was a chemist!

Also I wanted to compare the ingredient list with those of more popular essences in the market.  Namely SKII Facial Treatment Essence, Missha First Treament Essence, Estee Lauder Micro Essence and the Pixi Rose Tonic.

Now all the of them contain PEGs and glycols in some form or the other, sprinkled across the list, top, middle and bottom.

So in conclusion am I thrilled with my $10 purchase ? Heck yea! My primary concern is hydration I think Elf can deliver as well as this lot.

It has a light glycerine like texture and spreads easily. 20180223_102749

I like the Elf texture way better than Missha First Treatment or the Estee Lauder Micro Essence. Both those essences are basically water and I don’t like that.

The light emollient texture of the Elf makes me feel more comforted  It’s a texture thing.

This is when I use it; After cleansing

  1. I run my Simple non-alcoholic toner over my face with a cotton ball.
  2. Then I apply my Vitamin C serum (am) Or my CeraVe Retinol cream (pm).
  3. Then I pat about 2 drops of the Elf Hydrating Water essence all over my face and neck. And I do this twice.
  4. Lastly follow up with a moisturiser (am) or facial oil (pm).

I skip steps 1 and 2 the days I exfoliate with my Pixi Glow glycolic toner (pm).

And now  for the most important hydrating step  of them all…..to actually drink some water !





Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

In my skincare routine I will not, rather can not, ignore vitamin C. My skin needs it and dare I say  it, we all need it.

And the most effective vitamin C for topical skincare is pure vitamin C, the notoriously unstable L-ascorbic acid.

To get an in-depth look at the various vitamin Cs in skincare and its various derivatives; L-ascorbic acid, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) please check out Stephanie Nicole on Youtube. Start with her video on The Ordinary skincare line.

Anyone seriously into Vitamin C (and cash to spare) knows about Skinceutical’s CE Ferrulic and if you are living in America, you also have access to the Drunk Elephant line. (Please see my note end of post about the The Ordinary, Timeless and Kate Sommerville’s serums.)

While the CE Ferrulic is potent the Vitamin C destabilises so damned quick that I fear it is not effective after a while. It’s the dropper system that is the problem exposing it to air and light.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 11.35.23 AM

Drunk Elephant on the other hand have aced it with their packaging. The best in the market. You twist the orange cap anti-clockwise and up pops a pump. You pump the product and twist it back shut. It is as ‘air tight’ as you can get with skincare.

However 30ml at $80 dollars plus tax hurts. I was, grudgingly, resigned to my expensive fate until around 2 weeks back when I was nosing around the Ulta website.  I spied the Derma-E Vit C Concentrated Serum, Hyaluronic Acid. 20180220_142459Now I ignore most vitamin c serums and creams because if it aint L-Ascorbic Acid then talk to the hand mate!  Moreover I was looking for a serum to deliver an additional dose of hydration for my skin and the Hyaluronic Acid on the label caught my attention.

But when I read up about the second ingredient in the serum, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate ( truthinagain.com, simpleskincarescience.com and thebeautybrains.com )  I thought to myself ‘ok this product sounds promising’. The study is not definitive but at $20 a pop I decided to give it a whirl anyway.

This serum is in no way mean’t to be the Vitamin C serum in my routine. I plan to alternate this one with the Drunk Elephant one. That way doubling the life of my Drunk Elephant and also getting , fingers crossed, an effective alternate dose of vitamin C and hydration.

The texture is a clear/milky gel and doesn’t leave a tacky feel on the skin. The pale orange on the right is Drunk Elephant.Untitled.001

Product Claims;

A) We use a stable form of Vitamic C that wont evaporate or degrade before absorbing into your skin.

B) Intensely moisturizing Hyaluronic Acid plus non-oxidizing Vitamin C work together to protect skin from environmental stresses, helping to minimize the appearance of Aging, Soothing Aloe and Vitamin E deeply moisturize for a more rejuvenated you.


  • No Parabens
  • No Artificial colors
  • No GMO
  • No Gluten
  • No Sulfates
  • No Petrolatum
  • No Mineral Oil
  • No Lanolin
  • No Phthalates
  • 100% Vegan
  • Cruelty Free

In terms of my primary source of Vitamin C it  will be the Drunk Elephant C Firma for now but I understand it is expensive.

To get a different perspective please watch Ms. Kimberly Clark’s Anti-Haul videos here ( part of her anti consumerism series) She says she wont buy the Drunk Elephant. By the way she is HILARIOUS !Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 11.21.03 AM

Note: I have not tried any of the serums from The Ordinary line as items are always out of stock (grrr) . For the Vitamin C from the Timeless series, well I never have enough to justify free shipping :).

Kate Sommerville’s Vitamin C serum is in a promising non-dropper system but it didn’t do it for me. I love almost everything from her line except this one. So gave it a pass.


Heart Rate Monitors – Mio Slice

The short :Don’t bother. You’re welcome. Goodbye

The long of it: I have rarely made new year resolutions. And in all my 40+ years I have probably made 2 resolutions and kept both.

This year  I resolved to up my fitness game. To keep track of that I decided to (re)invest in a heart rate monitor.

I didn’t want a device to talk to me or make my tea, just something that simply calculated Heart Rate. As I mostly do Yoga nowadays, something that calculated heart rate instead of “steps” was huge.

I had a Polar chest strap in the 90s. While the most accurate ,the big problem is you have to put it on while essentially, naked ! And too much work. Who wants to deal with all that ‘wet-strap-put-around-chest-then-wear-sports-bra’ and then get the rest of your gear on.

You wont believe how many times I have realized I had forgotten the chest strap with no time to strip down to put it on before my spin class.  And all that pinching when you are bending over during yoga was getting on my nerves.

So this year after much debate and research between the darling of the masses, the Fitbit, the oldie Polar I decided to go with the Mio, more specifically the Mio Slice.

Don’t buy it. I bought my Mio Slice off Amazon on 29th Nov 2017. I paired with my Samsung phone and it worked till Dec 22nd 2017.  After that…dead.

I have been on the phone with Mio support and on email since. About 20 emails and 7 customer support calls. My picture is probably on a dartboard  in their employee lunchroom !

Is it me ? Is it them ? I don’t know. It has caused me nothing but grief.  Most specifically do not buy online from Amazon. Will elaborate below.

So let my tale of woe commence.

The device: The SLICE will NOT work without downloading and activating the App on your phone. I did NOT realise that.  I thought the App was a nice extra for features I did not care for.  This is awful because if the app gets buggered, has a bug the device is basically a dust gatherer.

OS: I am a die hard Android/Samsung phone girl (who is madly in love with her MacBook laptop. Go figure)  Christmas 2017 Mio did an update and all of the sudden it stopped working with my Samsung device. Mind you Samsung phone updates automatically so the OS was up to date.

What got my goat is Mio support’s response. Basically boiled down to ‘yes we did an update and its not compatible with your phone anymore’.

ANYMORE ??!!! That bugs me no end. Complete lack of responsibility here.

Mio sent me a replacement and their suggestion; Try and pair it with another phone.

Yes ofcourse, everyone has multiple phones lying around the house…not.

I paired it with my husband’s iPhone. Yep all good…..


Mio’s happily ever after solution did not work here either !

iPhone: The device paired with my husband’s iPhone but guess WHAT ? A update your firmware message came on and it would NOT update.

Closed App. Forgot device, Clean data, clean cache, un-install, re-install. Nope.Update error.

Me: Now what Mio, now what ?

Mio: Is your wifi stable ?

Me: Yes Mio very stable. We live downtown Greater Seattle (and I happened to be standing near the router, which I did not bother telling them. I was already over their band-aid solutions by now.)

Mio: do not do the update, just use it as is.

Me: OK. (suspicious very suspicious! which App on earth would advice you not to do an update ???)

Device’s Accuracy : So finally the device is blinking it green lights like a christmas tree all paired (but not updated) but guess what ??? It’s off with its reading.

Years of treadmill, spin class, power yoga and personal training I am well aware of where my heart rate is. Resting, easy jog, a stroll or power yoga.

I woke up , still in bed, checked my Slice heart rate 112. My Samsung phone showed 62-70.

Mio suggested switch wrists. (rolling eyes)

I checked it today, both wrists. I was drying dishes while watching the Great British Baking show on PBS. My heart rate 182.

No not even Paul Hollywood coupled with a chocolate croissant  would spike my heart rate like that.

I wrote to Mio.  This time just for fun. Just how far will they go to NOT take responsibility for this device.

Oh I know ! This time it will be .. me !  I am just too damned alive I guess.

Honestly who devised this and are they still employed ?

Amazon: My biggest point to state here is DO NOT Buy this off Amazon. Why ? Because it took me more than their 30 days refund policy to find out this Slice is the pits !

Remember it worked…then Mio sent me a replacement.  By then it was no longer Amazon’s responsibility. I will however warn buyers of this on the Amazon review site.

I do believe that if I bought it at a sports store (like an REI) I am sure by now even the retailer would be fed up with Mio’s lack lustre response and give me a refund.

At this point I would like to meet the engineer or product development person for the Mio Slice and give them a public dressing down.