Goop Skincare Discovery Set

It's okay if you're skeptical of Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop, the unassuming name for what's basically her Finer Things Club. Maybe you've gotten burned (literally) from Jessica Alba's Honest Company sunscreen. Or—with good reason—you're just not into the whole celebrity branding effort that's evolved since Elizabeth Taylor launched her White Diamonds perfume. But personally, I've benefitted from Goop's weekly newsletters. Paltrow has done a lot to promote the clean beauty industry, and I'll forever be grateful for her introduction of Tracy Anderson's miraculous workouts. And if you're interested in really effective skincare, this set—including a facial oil, day lotion, night cream, and exfoliating treatment—doesn't disappoint.

The Enriching Facial Oil boasts the usual roster of carrier and antioxidant oils: Sunflower Seed, Olive, Jojoba, Starflower (also known as Borage), Grapeseed, Linseed, Rose Geranium, Cranberry, Iris, and Roman Chamomile. The one exception is Poet's Daffodil, which is really just daffodil and there is very little literature establishing its benefits in skincare. That said, this is a potent cocktail of anti-aging ingredients. Paltrow, herself, confessed that she's a facial oil junkie and that this formula is a personal win for her. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from it; it's not too heavy, absorbs rapidly, and feels lovely even around the eye area. You can slip this on beneath your moisturizer or pat it over your makeup later for a midday refresh.

The Replenishing Night Cream is just that, a tub of seriously nourishing cream that leaves skin feeling supple and renewed. I was initially worried, because this cream feels heavy and decadent to the touch. It's definitely a luxury item, and I often breakout from any creams with heft. But my skin the next morning looked happy and rested, with tight pores and a surprising brightness. 

The heaviness in texture comes from strong moisturizers like shea butter and avocado and almond oils. Hyaluronic acid binds these moisturizers, keeping it effective during the (hopefully) 8+ hours of sleep you're getting. And it does contain a gentle dose of Vitamin A, which is the most proven anti-aging ingredient on the market. I'd recommend this for anyone who is looking for a nourishing anti-aging night cream. I suspect it will be healing long term, especially for post-acne scars, rosacea, and sun damage. 

The Revitalizing Day Moisturizer is a nice medium weight lotion. It glides over the oil and is readily absorbed when applied solo. It makes for a nice canvas under foundations—especially drier formulas like my compact Kjaer Weis—and leaves the skin feeling remarkable even by the afternoon. My cheeks are often dry, and my t-zone slightly slick by 4pm, but that's not the case with this lotion. It shares many of the same ingredients as its sister night cream and facial oil, but with a higher concentration of Aloe Leaf, Apple, Lemon and Grape juices, which keep this from being too much. It also happens to be the trademark cocktail that gives Juice Beauty—the manufacturer of this line—its name. Beware, there is no SPF, I'd suggest finishing with a dusting of an SPF powder (Jane Iredale's is a favorite.)


Lastly, the Exfoliating Instant Facial is the most intense and memorable product in the set. Juice Beauty—once described to me as the "jackhammer" of clean skincare—is known for pumping out products that don't pull punches. Most notable are their Green Apple peels, which now, thankfully, come in varied strengths. I've been using these exfoliating gel masks off and on for 17 years, and was most excited to give this treatment a whirl. It has a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and I love a serious chemical exfoliation. Sometimes I get too zealous with granular exfoliants, whereas a chemical exfoliant will much more effectively sweep away polish, sweep away dead skin cells, and lighten pesky post-acne scars without the collateral damage from scrubbing too hard.

The first ingredients listed are the classic Juice Beauty cocktail—Apple, Lemon, Grape and Aloe juices—and then things get serious. Glycolic acid (my favorite chemical exfoliant), Lactic and Malic acids are effective at polishing fine lines and healing sun damage, hyperpigmentation, and the keratosis pylaris bumps that plague my cheeks when I don't stay on top of exfoliations. Then there's Salycic acid, for healing and keeping congested pores at bay, and Hyaluronic acid, which delivers a plumping action.

When I tried the product for the first time last week, the combination of these acids gave a warming effect almost immediately upon application. I buoyantly brushed my teeth and blew my toddler's hair dry while letting the Instant Facial do its magic. It rinsed off easily, with little sugar crystals to slough off the cream. Then, I looked in the mirror and saw that my face was bright red. I patted my cheek—it felt like I was rocking a fever. I put a frozen icepack over the Nourishing Facial Oil and an hour later the redness and inflammation had subsided. The next morning, there were no problems to report. My skin was incredibly soft and not brittle or seemingly damaged. But I was more than a little traumatized. A few days later, I tried it again, but only left the concoction on my face for less than 30 seconds before quickly rinsing it off. This time, my cheeks were glowing and lovely, with no red patches to speak of. For me—and anyone with remotely sensitive skin—this will be a quick, no-more-than-once-weekly treatment, as potent as it is effective.

Tata Harper's Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint

Last month, I sprung for a special Valentine's edition trial set (Be Mine Again: Limited Edition Natural Skincare Try-Me Kit) from Tata Harper, an upscale brand out of Vermont. Samples of her Oil Cleanser, Purifying Cleanser, Beautifying Facial Oil, Concentrated Brightening Serum, Moisturizing Mask, Fortifying Body Lotion, Love Potion Perfume and five samples of her Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint came tucked inside a red velvet pouch. Oh, and a square of Lake Champlain dark chocolate that was really good. 

The Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tints were what motivated the purchase, I was wooed by the chance to play with generously sized samples of all the shades. Very Popular is quite sheer and shimmery, but the other shades are quite opaque. On lips, they have a vaguely fruit flavor and don't last for ages, but the brighter ones impart a bit of a stain. They blend comfortably over the apples of cheeks and look quite natural.

 My favorite of the shades, Very Vivacious, is a wildly flattering pinked coral. It's a Spring wake up for my pallid winter complexion and I'd recommend it for anyone. Especially for those who balk at experimenting with coral and want a color that would compliment virtually any outfit.  

From left: Very Nice, Very Vivacious, Very Sweet,  Very Charming, Very Naughty.

From left: Very Nice, Very Vivacious, Very Sweet,  Very Charming, Very Naughty.

Tata Harper, herself, is a Columbian born mother of three who's original vocation was as an industrial engineer. After a close family member was diagnosed with cancer, her family sat down with a doctor who advised caution with not only what they ate, and how they cleaned their homes, but with what personal care products they used. When she discovered the lack of non-toxic alternatives for her high-end skincare, she built her own green skincare line from the ground up. When possible, plants are grown and harvested on her 12,000 acre Vermont farm (all organic!) to make her products. Everything else is imported from far flung locales like the Amazon, Israel and Europe. And the production isn't outsourced, the formulas and manufacturing all take place in her onsite lab, where one would imagine her industrial engineering expertise has come in helpful. Besides the Lip and Cheek Tints, the star products for me out of this kit were her Love Potion fragrance – at once a very mature floral and weighty aromatherapy cocktail – and her Rejuvenating Cleanser, which felt fabulous and non-drying.

Tata Harper  / $25 (No longer available)