Build Your Beauty Tool Kit


Skin care products are definitely  not a one size fits all situation.  Differences  in age, skin types, problems, even the weather can affect product choices.  Because I am exploring anti-aging skin care options, I have three specific issues:

1.  Retin A, Tri-luma and lasers  make my skin hyper-sensitive, dry and  super sensitive to  sun exposure.

2. I don’t like fragrance in beauty products

3. Since I’m interested in pricey prescription skin treatments and office procedures, I’m always looking for affordable and effective daily  products.

Given these three  factors here are my Fabulous Fifteen–


*  Eye Make-up Remover– Almay Oil-Free Make-up Remover ( $7.99/120 pads)

On the jar, Almay states that this is the #1 eye makeup remover.  I don’t know who made this judgement, but it is certainly an excellent product.  It took off my mascara easily and was totally non-irritating.  Even better, it didn’t leave a blurry film on my eyes that had happened with much more expensive eye makeup removers.

* Daily Cleanser–   Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($9/8oz)

Given that Retin A can be so irritating, I need a very gentle cleanser.  This means no scrubbing grains,  no alpha hydroxy acids, and no retinols. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser  has been around for decades and is still a top recommendation from dermatologists.  Unfailingly gentle, it effortlessly cleans even the most sensitive skin.


* Retin A- I started my  anti-aging  journey with extremely gentle .04%Retin A  Micro ($300).  Its pricy at the pharmacy and not  much more affordable  from online Canadian pharmacies.  But it really did the job and I think its  worth  using.  Now I’ve moved up to .1% generic Retin A  which is a much nicer at $40/tube.

Tri-luma – This prescription-only product contains, Retin A, a steroid ( to calm things down), and hydroquinone  (a known skin lightener). Tri-luma is   also pricyand I paid about $200 from an online Canadian pharmacy.


* Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF30 ( $22/2.5oz)– This light, easily absorbed  moisturizer contains feverfew, an herb known for its soothing properties.  I use this moisturizer as my sunscreen. Since the skin needs to absorb the sunscreen, I don’t want to use a separate product that  could block the sunscreen’s access to the skin.

* CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ( $15/3oz)- This light yet rich lotion  is loaded with hyaluronic acid ( a natural  moisturizer), ceramides ( the glue that hold skin cells together) and  niacinamide ( an amino acid that builds collagen and  breaks down melanin).  After I put on the Retin A at night,  I put on this moisturizer to avoid flaking and dryness associated with retinoids.

* Revlon Age Defying  Moisturizing Concealer SPF25( $12/.4oz)– Regular sunscreens can be too irritating for the delicate area around and under eyes.   Not only does this product  protect against sun damage, it really hides dark circles.  I  love this product and carry an extra tube in my purse for touch-ups.

* Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock Lotion SPF100+ ($12/3oz)–  Lightweight and waterproof, I use this sunscreen on my hands, chest and legs.   Heavier than the sunscreen that  I use on my face , this product contains soy which is an effective anti-oxident

*Neutrogena  for Sensitive Skin, SPF 30 ( $11/8oz)– On the days I am having an office procedure ( eg  IPL) I  need a  sunscreen   that gets its power from zinc or titanium oxide.  Normally I  do fine with traditional sunscreens, but  lasers make  skin hypersensitive– and physical sunscreens are a better choice.  I continue using this sunscreen for  a week after a procedure.

* Aquaphor ( $8/2oz–   Another frequent recommendation from  dermatologists, Aquaphor is a very soothing  petroleum and panthenol formula that relieves the post  laser burning sensation. I use it  for about 48 hours after a procedure.


1.  Exfoliating Glyco Peel System from Patricia Wexler, MD( $65/30 peels)

This is a great home exfoliator set.  It  consists of two steps– Jar 1 holds 30 little pads saturated with 10% glycolic acid( a type of AHA  made from sugar cane).  You  swipe the pad over the face and leave it on for two minutes.  Then  from Jar 2  you take another pad that is saturated with a neutralizerer and apply it to the face.  This is meant to be left on, not rinsed off.  You will see an immediate improvement  in your skin.  The surface looks smoother and fresher.  Is the kind of improvement that you can see with an hour long  facial that sets you back $100.  This set holds 30 treatments and sells for $65 at Bath and Body Works.  This works out to be  about $2/treatment.  Incredible! It can be used by all types of skin.  Although I am using Retin A every night, I am able to use this peel once a week without any additional irritation.

2. DDF Revolve 400X Micro-Polishing System ($95)– To keep my skin from becoming bored, I alternate the glycolic peel pads with home microdermabrasion.  It takes  only a minute and my skin has a nce glow.  Its also one of the few things that make a difference in my neck.

3.  Dermablend Professional Smooth Indulgence Redness Concealer( $22)

I had a little white bump removed below my eye.  It took less than  minute but left a purplish bruise.  I ws surprised  when  my usually very effective concealer didn’t do its job.  I went on a hunt and bought three more concealers, all of which failed to conceal.  Fortuneately Dr Marmur knew exactly what to do ”  Use some green stuff”  A few more minutes on line and  I found that Dermablend  made this product and was available at the Lord and Taylor in New York City.

Dermablend is a speciality make-up with a full line of products that cover birth marks, bruises and scars.  At Lord and Taylor Dermablend is sold at the Elizabeth Arden counter.  The staff was amazing, helping  me for more than an hour until we found the right products in the right shades.  The solution turned out to be a two step process.  Step 1  was a  pale green foundation called Professional Smooth Indulgence Rednes Concealer ( great product, but I think they should have a snappier name). The green base “killed” the reddish/ purple tones of the bruise.  Step two  was the application of  Dermablend Quick Fix Concealer ( which also has a 30 SPF.  ($22).  Note that when we tried any concealer alone,  you  could still see a very dark shadow from the bruise.

Cosmetic procedures like  line fillers (eg Restylene), Bot0x and lasers can cause redness and bruising.  These items are  on my anti-aging to-do list and now I  have  world class concealers to hide the discolorations in the future.

I bought the Fabulous Fourteen at  CVS, Sephora and Bath and Body Works.  They all  share the same   policy to  refund my money if I am not satisfied with the results.    It is so frustrating  to spend time and money on products that cause problems and/or don’t work.  We all  have individual reactions to beauty aids and its important to be able to use our money  to select those that give us the results  we want– and refunds when they don’t.

15 thoughts on “Build Your Beauty Tool Kit

  1. Which is better the DDF Revolve Micro Polishing System or the Clarisonic Mia – or does one need both? Thanks. Love your blog!

  2. Somehow I found your blog over the weekend and had a great time reading the archives. What a fountain of information. I’m particularly interested in updates on your new at home laser. If you give it the green light, I’ll buy one.

    A couple of questions. Even though you’ve been having in office procedures why have you not taken the plunge with fillers such as Juvederm? I did my my first fillers about a year ago and I have to say they’re worth every penny. Instant gratification and I use Tazorac daily. Second, you don’t seem to have added at home medical grade peels such as glycolic or lactic acids. Why?

    Keep up the great work,

    • I’m so glad you found my blog and are enjoying the archive. And I’m planning on using fillers this year. I am also planning to try out different chemical peels including glycolic in my research for my book on all types of Alpha Hydroxy Acids. The No-Nonsense Guide to Fruit Acids will be available as an ebook, hopefully before the spring. And if you’re interested, please check out my first video on Youtube at

  3. I love lists & love learning through others’ experience even more. Well written, concise and helpful discussion of alternatives. Hoping you have a similar list for makeup favs.

  4. What about under eye creams? I am looking for something that controls blackness underneath and prevents wrinkles.

    • THe best nighttime product was Triluma which seems to have disappeared from the shelves. Its a combination of Retin A, hydroquinone and a little steroid to keeps things calm. You can still get a prescription and have it made up in a pharmacy that offers specially compounded products. DUring the day its essential to wear a sunscreen especially formulated for the delicate under eye area. Dark shadows are often melanin triggered by sun exposure.

  5. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks a lot!

  6. Did you ever complete that list of makeup faves you mentioned? Also, would you be so kind as to recommend skin products and treatments for the fair, thin skinned, over 50, prone to hyper-pigmentation and broken capillaries, northern European women who desperately need help preserving….and more than likely repairing their skin.

    Waiting anxiously for your updated version of No-Nonsense Medical Beauty
    book. Absolutely the best book ever on the subject.

    • I posted a list of gluten-free make-up brands that can be very helpful for women with eczema. I am still working on a list of mke-up for sensitive skin Many products so far have not passed my tests. I have friends with different types of sensitive skin use them and note how it affects the skin. Apparently, its not so much what they leave out, as what they put in. Too many products just make sensitive skin claims on the label, but cause irritation on the skin. Please stay tuned!

  7. I saw your reply to another post you are working on make up lines. I wear eye make up, concealer and powder blush. Since I have been using Retin-A I am having trouble with caking eye shadow and my concealer clumps. I HAVE to wear makeup, I don’t have a good natural look and am struggling. I would love recommendations for at least concealers. I also am going to look for a line filler. I have silicone for under my eye, that I thought was a line filler, but when I add my concealer over top even after I give it time to dry, it cakes up. Very frustrating! Any help you can provide would be great! I love your advise!!! :) Thanks

  8. Hi deb,
    Love you for the wealth of information you provide so patiently and lovingly!

    Please have a separate section for Asian skins especially Indian. You have a HUGE market and lots of fans here!

    • What an excellent idea! I will start a tab at the top of the page for skin of color. I already have a number of articles and I will be certain to note any issues that are different for South Skin in future skin care articles. This is a area of huge interest to me and one that I think has been neglected by both doctors and beauty writers. Thank you for your recommendation and support.

  9. Both seem to act differently on the skin. According to the directions, DDF should not be only several times a week and not on skin treated with irritants like Retin A, while the clarisonic can be used every day with no restrictions. I tend to use Clarisonic at least 4-5 times a week, and DDF once or twice a week on my Retin A free days. I love these little guys. And I’m so glad you like the blog!

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