European Beauty Musings: German Apotheke OTC Review, Part 1

IMG_4465.JPGI live in the land of brauts, schnitzels, and Weißbier. I didn’t know what they were until I moved here.  In the beginning, all I wanted to do was drive on the autobahn and try their delicious beers. Well their beers and autobahn have lived up to my expectations. ( I don’t eat pork so I don’t know much about their brats, or schnitzels)..

This is a country run by efficiency, recycling and over-engineering, so it shouldn’t surprise you their skincare is backed by research, innovation, and testing. I have to admit, because their apotheke (pharmacy) OTC brands are so good, I’m not too familiar with higher-priced point brands other than Babor (which I will talk about at a future date.) I love their lower price point brands such as Balea, (DM house brand owned by Alverde)  Lavera, Welda, Eucerin (not the same quality as the one in USA), L’oreal (again, German quality is different than USA) and I also am in love with their baby skincare line and will write a post on this. They are amazing for everyday use, especially their powder, and lotions.

This post will have couple parts to it because, there is so much to share.I understand these products might not be readily available in your country, If you are interested in any of these products after my review and I can see how we can get the products to you if you cannot find it in your country. Email here.

  1. Lavera is an organic skin care line sold in drugstores and organic supermarkets. They do not sell it in the apotheke.For over 25 years, Lavera have manufactured all natural skincare and cosmetics to the highest quality standards. Using herbal ingredients, certified organic whenever possible, Lavera products are all formulated without synthetic preservatives, colors or fragrances, developed to be effective yet gentle for sensitive skin, and safe for you, your family and the environment. Lavera Natural Cosmetics is the leading natural and organic skincare brand certified organic by NaTru and the are against animal testing. I love everything about this line. I find their products nourishing, hydrating and it also smells wonderful. I don’t mind slathering on the night cream, balm or hand cream because it’s a great price point. I think their body wash, lotions, shampoo are also good for the price point and because I know the ingredients are natural without fillers, I don’t ever hesitate to buy it. The only one thing I don’t like is their conditioners! Germans have a thing about when a product lathers too much it must not be natural.. so a lot of their products have a lower sud level/lather level. However when I first used their conditioner, I thought I made a mistake and bought their body lotion (again I can’t read Germany really well!) only to find out I was indeed using their hair conditioner. It feels like body lotion and goes on like a body lotion and you wonder after you rinse it off it it really indeed can work as a body lotion instead of conditioner! 🙂

2.   Eucerin: My family use Eucerin for daily body lotion. I like the one that is from Germany.  Currently we are finishing up the Ph 5 Lotion. This is for extremely dry skin and also sensitive skin. and at the time of this writing, I do not believe they import this to USA. It contains pH5 Enzyme Protection, which has been clinically proven to activate skin’s own enzymes. We love this one because my kids have eczema. The smell is mild, and it is easy to apply.  It isn’t so thick like other Eucerin creams where you have to be rubbing for hours (okay exaggeration here) in order to blend it into your skin. The only con I have about this product is the bottle, you can’t unscrew the top off in order to finish off every bit of the lotion, so we end up leaving it upside down when we are in the final drops..

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Now this is the best part of the Ph5.. and this is where German engineering comes in: It has also been shown to prevent 90% of pollen penetration through skin, and is therefore suitable for use on allergy stressed skin. Thanks to Dexpanthenol the formula has wound healing properties. This is great news for pollen sufferers  who have dry skin, but my daughter has dry skin due to her milk allergies and not pollen! 

There is one that Eucerin sells in the USA and it is similar to the Ph5 and it is the Eucerin Urea is a substance that is found naturally in the skin, which by its nature is very attracted to water.  There is a 5% and 10% formulation. 10% is for extremely dry versus the 5%. I have tried the 5% one and my daughter prefers the Ph5 over Urea.

It is used to help rehydrate dry, scaly skin. I have tried this one, and prefer the Ph5 over Urea because occasionally it stings initially on her skin when she applies the Urea 5%.  

Here is a tip: By smoothing and softening the skin moisturisers can increase the absorption of other medicines that are applied to the skin. This can be useful in conditions such as eczema because it improves the ability of other medicines, such as corticosteroid creams, to penetrate the skin and reduce inflammation. However, if they are applied at the same time, moisturisers can also dilute the active ingredient of other medicines applied to the skin, so you should try to avoid applying them within about half an hour of medicated creams, ointments and lotions.

I’ve been writing for couple hours now, so I’m ready to take a break and drink some water!  Stay tune for Part 2!

xoxo, Grace

European Beauty Musings: French Pharmacie OTC review

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I have been living in Germany for three years, but because I am near France, I head to the French shops, apothecaries, and drug stores as well. This post is a musing of my personal experience of European skincare. In the OTC world of Europe, there are 3-4 big players: La Roche Posay, Vichy, Biotherm (not to be confused with Bioderma which is also amazing) followed by Nuxe (more on the expensive side), Caudalie and others.

All of these brands are super gentle and quality brands. Vichy’s philosophy is hydrating with water for the skin.  They use thermal water with other natural ingredients in their core formulation, this is also true of Avene and La Roche Posay.

I have tried the Vichy anti-aging Aqualia Thermal line which I thought was not as effective as their Neovadiol line. I recommend Vichy for women in their 20-30’s, and if you need more heavy lifting, for anti-aging solution, I would look elsewhere.

La Roche Posay is everywhere in Europe.  It is best for sensitive skins, and their focus and research is for sensitive skin.  My sister who only uses Cetaphil can tolerate La Roche Posay. It is super gentle and effective on sensitive skin. However, they have a formulation for every skin type. I love their body wash, Lipikr Syndet AP. I accidently bought this for my daughter thinking it was lotion (as you can see, I can’t read French!), and I ended up using it in the shower and loving it. It’s not super sudsy, goes on like a dream, and leaves you silky smooth and supple. I use it to shave my legs as well. Mainly for severe dry skin, as it restores your skin barrier and rebalances your skin microbiome my daughter and I love using it for everyday wash. But my favorite La Roche de Posay product? Their SPF line! It is simply amazing, and also very moisturizing. Try their Anthelios sunscreen line. It offers UVA/UVB protection, is photo-stable, has a non-greasy feel and is fast absorbing. Of course it has no parabens, and is fragrance free. My daughter has sensitive skin (She is 14), and she loves this line.

Nuxe: I have tried their cleansers, exfoliators, and oils.  The Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese is one of my favorite oil I use for my neck, hands and face when I feel dry. I love using it before I go to bed. It is absorbent, and you still feel the hydration even after few hours unlike many OTC oils. I have their face exfoliator and I thought it was just okay.. A little too gritty on my skin, and the gel is a bit too thick that I often feel like I have to rinse my face a lot longer than my other exfoliators. I don’t tend to reach for it when I’m in a hurry.

 Another great French brand that is natural, free from synthetic colors, parfumes, paraffin, parabens and phthalates (as is Biotherm, Nuxe, Avene, La Roche Posay, etc), Caudalie started from the wine presses of the countryside in Bourdeaux, France, literally mixing grapes, roots, vines, sebum, and leaves in their formulation. I just ordered the Caudalie Beauty Elixir today as I read great reviews about it and can’t wait to try it.

I pretty much have the same conclusion for many of the OTC French skincare: They are too gentle on my skin. I love the smell, and the feel of the gels, oils and cleansers, but I don’t have huge results..at least not in the immediate future. I still use their cleansers, thermal water (which I will review in a future post between La Roche Posay, Avene & Vichy) and moisturizers, but I don’t rely on it for my anti-aging solutions that need heavy lifting and if you have skin issues that go further than mild acne, or dry skin, I would look elsewhere. These are some of the best OTC skin product out in the market, and I would use it without a doubt for everyday skincare routine because I know the French has one of the strictest rules for skin ingredients to enter into their market.

Tomorrow I’ll talk to you about German skin care and what I love and can live without. In the meantime, did you drink your daily glass of water?

xoxo, Grace

What’s your Type? Can it Change?

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I don’t want to bore you with skin types because everyone knows there are generally 5 types of skin: normal, sensitive, dry, oily and combination. My skin type is oily/acne prone and I suffered from severe acne for over 30 years. Even when I had signs of  wrinkles in my late 30’s, I was still breaking out. Come 40, and bam, my acne finally went away. He didn’t want to stick around anymore where he wasn’t able to swim in sebum mixed with dead skin cells because my body decreased its production of sebum. He finally checked out and I was so happy. End of story… Well, not really,  because I inherited another host of problems: AGE!  I lost elasticity, my pores enlarged, and wrinkles slowly started to make its way around my eyes..  My skin type had changed. I wasn’t oily anymore, but dry and aging. I started to use lots of serums and oils on my face (I would have never touched any type of oil with a 10 feet pole in my younger years), to try to get back that dewy look.

So the short answer is: YES your skin type can change (slowly) through many factors and here is a short list:

  1. Age
  2. Pregnancy/Menopause
  3. Stress
  4. Medication
  5. Even changing your skin routine that might not be the best for your skin.

From my personal experience, when I had a skin type change from stress, environment, medication, etc,  it was only temporary. My skin “type” reacted to the outside conditions around me. It wasn’t until I turned 40 when I saw a true skin type change. Even when I was taking Accutane, (one of the strongest acne drug around that time), my sebum/oil production significantly decreased, to the point where I didn’t have to wash my hair literally for a week and it was still not oily, and my acne completely cleared..for about 5 years after I stopped taking it. However, my skin went back to its normal oily/acne prone ways and I started back on Accutane a second time 10 years later, and my skin started to go back to its old ways 5 years after the second round of treatment.

Let’s face it, we are all born with a “type” that can’t be changed.. Whether you have normal, dry, oily, sensitive, aging, etc skin, embrace it, and try not to be so hard on yourself. I battled through depression, low-self esteem and self doubt because of acne. There were many days I didn’t want to get up from bed. It doesn’t matter what your skin type is, one thing for sure I know that works: drink plenty of water, eat lots of fresh veggies and fruits, and cut out processed foods and sugar, and your skin will thank you for it!

Here is a Skin Type Quiz on SheKnows  see if you are right about your skin and keep drinking water!

xoxo, Grace

It’s Not Too Late…

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It’s not too late. Skin is always changing, renewing, and turning itself over.  In a metaphorical sense, I tell this to myself because I have always wanted to start a blog about skincare and beauty but told myself I was being vain, and it would thrust me into the world of dizziness and chaos of choices, but realized I love it too much to stay away from it. Let me help you.

No matter how old you are: whether you are a teenager going through breakouts, a nursing mother with a dewy glow,  or in your 30’s to 50’s and still dealing with adult acne and now wrinkles, it’s not too late to start. But the point is to start and don’t stop. Give your skin time to adjust to the new routine and be patient. Now breathe and drink lots of water.

xoxo, Grace

Why Le Gloss?

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In the myriad world of beauty blogs, vlogs,  and information age etc.. why Le Gloss? I do explain why Le Gloss in the ABOUT US page, but simply put, in the world of beauty products, gadgets and trends, I will break it down based on my  personal experience and research as a make-up artist and a skin-care junkie. I have talked and been consulted through dermatologists, aestheticians, makeup artists, etc. I have lived in USA, Europe, Japan and Korea and know about the different philosophies of beauty. We are concentrating mainly on face and skin in this blog. So read on! xoxo, Grace