Institut Esthederm: Parisian Niche Products


Niche parisian products with pharmacy-like ingredients and that are hard to find in the U.S.?  Sign me up.  Sigh, then my wallet cries foul!  I heard about Institut Esthederm from a few beauty blogs that focus on high-end or niche products.  I had heard about the sun cream which is supposed to block the sun, despite no official SPF rating referred to in its marketing literature and i decided to pass.  But I didn’t pass on investigating some new products that sounded really tantalizing.  I bypassed their wrinkle and oil control products and went straight to their acne care products.  Many american drugstore brand products for acne are just too weak and not meant to irritate even somewhat sensitive skin.  My skin’s tougher than that, or so I thought.  I am always trying to find the middle road for OTC skincare products that won’t irritate my skin, but will have a powerful effect degunking my oil-gunked pores.  Wow, that’s so pleasant sounding…right? No.

But I was on a ‘do the french pharmacy-luxe brands have something that American brands just don’t have?’ kick.  I mean european brands are known for using cutting edge ingredients before they find their way in to the U.S.  On the otherhand, many of these cutting edge ingredients have nominal real world efficacy for the intended problem.  But I persisted.  I have tried La Roche Posay, Roc and Vichy.  There have been a few nice gems in these brands.  Surely, I could find something to knock my socks off.  When I picked up Institut Esthederm’s Intensif Ginko A and Intensif Propolis I got something knocked off all right.  My burning skin cells as they reacted to the totally INTENSIF POW in these ingredients.  These products are not for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned.

First some info on Institut Esthederm – YUP, they are parisian.  Can’t ya tell?  It is a Paris based brand that has been creating skincare products for the last 30 years.  For the past decade and change, the brand has focused on delivering active ingredients in a “charged” water that they call “Cellular Water,” which is meant to recreate an ideal environment for skin cells, by mimicking cellular water.  This is in contrast to the demineralized water used in most cosmetics.  Institut Esthederm organizes its skincare by five family lines.  The two products that I chose are from the Pure System, which focuses on products that liquify sebum and normalizes the skin to reduce imperfections.

Intensif  Ginkgo A is a white treatment cream that you can use all over the face, or on the targeted areas of your face with the break outs, completely avoiding the eye area.  It’s star ingredient is Ginkgo Biloba  combined with Zinc Gluconate and 10-Hydroxydecanoic Acid.   The brand literature doesn’t actually do a good job of explaining why and how these ingredients work.  It is basically asking the reader to make positive associations with the known BUT VERY GENERALIZED effects of these ingredients from popular studies and your skin.  Ginkgo Biloba is known to be one of the hardiest trees out there able to withstand very hostile environments.  While Zinc Gluconate is a kind of salt that is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that is known to help reduce certain types of acne.  10-Hydroxydecanoic Acid is taken from Royal Jelly and it is known to have a significant restorative, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. These ingredients along with the glycolic acid, salicylic acid and glycyrrhetnic acid (also anti-inflammatory and reduces melanin production) are supposed to work together to …well, what does the marketing material say? It says and I quote “provide a dermotoesthetic response to skin problems.”  Seems to me – the brand doesn’t actually know for sure either, they just know it does something.

On me, it just ended up burning my skin.  In all fairness, I did use a combination salicylic/glycolic acid cleanser and Retin-A Micro when I used this product.  I ended up chucking the Retin-A Micro for a while to see the difference and it was not as harsh on my skin, but it does have an inflammatory effect on my skin, like a slight, mild sizzle.  Normal, thin-skinned and sensitive-skinned folks should stay far, far away from this stuff.    Despite it’s very INTENSIF effect on my skin, I have not given up on this tube.  I will figure out a corresponding skincare routine to allow me to use this stuff.   But for the rest of you, save your money.  If I figure out this skincare rubrics cube, I will pass on the info, but honestly, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.   I’ve sunk my money, so I have nothing to lose but time and layers of inflamed skin.


Now, you think that maybe the Intensif Propolis would somehow counter the flammatory effects of the Intensif Ginkgo A.  NOPE.  Propolis is supposed to be packed full of restorative, gentle, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory good stuff, but this was also kind of harsh on my skin.  It was also somewhat unpleasant to use.  It is a brown slightly tacky, liquid that does not disappear into the skin visually or texture-wise.   Propolis is a resin that is collected by bees from the tree saps and flowers they get up all close and personal with.  There is no exact content for propolis because it always varies.  However, per the marketing material, it always contains resin, wax, essential oils, pollin, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and flavenoids.   This all seems wonderful and I am not anti Propolis.  I LOVE propolis.  But I am used it being in a far more gentle delivery system that actually babies skin and doesn’t inflame it.

After realizing how unpleasant it is, I started using it exclusively in my t-zone where I have my rather large pores.  I did notice that there did seem to be a positive effect on my super oily pores, but ironically I couldn’t just let it sit there on my skin.  After letting it simmer on my skin for a few hours, I would have to wash it off because this stuff does not evaporate into nothing.  It felt like it might be suffocating my skin and actually cause a breakout.  Then of course I take a closer look at the ingredients and realize it contains propylene glycol and dimethicone before the actual propolis ingredient.  Here is a tip…don’t add dimethicone to an ingredient that is supposed to penetrate pores.

I am still figuring out a use that is beneficial to my skin and if I find anything I will report back.  But this isn’t a winner either.  Both are rather expensive bottles and I would caution anyone falling for these french luxury pharmacy lines.  Yeah, it looks great on vanity or in a medicine cabinet, but really they are just really aggressive, inflammatory window dressing.


Hot Orange Lips with Hourglass and Make Up Forever

Hourglass MUF Orange Horizontal

It is a tad ironic that I am posting an orange lippy just when I am favoring the muted nudish pink tones.  Go figure.  I still love super bright orange and super bright neon pinks, but more casual colors that don’t require frequent checks of the mirror are more my style now.  Not like I wore them very often to begin with, but it was always a special treat when I did.  However, even with the few time I wore these bright colors, they sometimes made a bigger impact than I wanted…I once snoozed a bit on my ride back home on a late night and went back home with my orange lips smeared all over my mouth and surrounding skin.  Yes, I looked crazy.  Fortunately, this was during my grad school days, late at night, and very few people actually saw that hot mess.  Since that night, I’ve always been paranoid every time I wear a noticeable lip color.  Plus, I have an overbite with very large front teeth….the kind you hate as a kid, but turn out to be one of those features you get complemented on by strangers and dentists alike.  

I picked up these bright orange hues last winter when I was loving the new vibrant pinks and oranges that were being released in these cool liquid-lip matte colors.  I tried Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Lip Color in Fiore (a hot pink) and Tesoro (a lovely hot orangey-red), but one quick rub of my lips together and it looked sludgey and peeled off my skin.  I loved the colors but didn’t like the wearability.  I tried Giorgio Armani’s Lip Maestro in Tibetan Orange and I loved it (and picked it up).  It will show up in a post eventually.  I really wanted to pick up another shade but decided to pick up another shade of orange from the very comparable Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick in Riviera, which was a few bucks cheaper.  

Hourglass MUF Orange

Hourglass’ Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick offered enhanced wearability and finish.  I wasn’t as nerve racked about the lacquer peeling off and clumping.  This didn’t mean that I was smacking my lips with abandon but it was a huge improvement from Stila’s comparable color matches for a few bucks less.  Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick does not bleed or feather.  It goes on in a thin creamy veil of color and dries to a dense non-dry looking matte finish.  I can’t claim to have ever worn this lip for 14 hours, but I don’t think 14 hours is legitimate simply because it does fade a bit after a few hours and it does kind of embed itself in to your lips, drying it out a bit.  A few careful thin swipes of color along with balm refuels the color payoff, but you have to be careful to reduce a smidge of clumping along the lines in your lips where the color may have sunk in more.  Regardless, this is an amazing lipstick for those of use who are neurotic and do not want to look like bozo the clown.

I picked up Make Up Forever’s Aqua Lip Waterproof Lipliner Pencil as a way to reinforce the color of what I thought would be bleeding and fading pigment.  Turned out with the enhanced staying power of the Hourglass and Armani Lacquers that it was unnecessary.  However, it turned out that this little pencil is more than just a way to lay down foundation color to lock in the pigment under lipstick.  This pencil can be worn on its own for medium tinted shot of waterproof color.  I was really surprised with the pigment and long lasting color.  A touch of balm adds needed moisture and a hint of shine to the finish for a more subdued look, even with the Bright Orange 17C shade I picked.  I liked this pencil so much that I picked up a hot pink number as well to be showcased some time later down the road.  

Hourglass Orange

One of the awesome things about pencil makeup is how much long lasting it is compared to liquid and cream-based products.  Sadly, that’s the one thing that makes the Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick a problem, is the breeding ground aspect of the flecked sponge-tipped applicator wand being reinserted into the plastic shaft.  The need to replace this lipstick often will be high.  That’s about the only negative I can think of.  It really is a safe way to wear loud, bright colors without neurotically checking the mirror or avoiding serious lip-contact action.


Some Near End of Summer Musings…

I am back for a bit.  It’s been over a month since my last post.  don’t think I don’t know that it’s a little bummy of me to follow up a pictureless post with a pictureless post…it is a beauty blog after all.  But this is definitely a text appropriate musing post.  I haven’t been reading as many blogs and that’s hugely due to time constraints and the fact that i feel a bit ridiculous checking out a beauty blog at work…don’t think that I haven’t though – on the sly…But it does cut down on the amount of commenting I would do, or liking for that matter.  But I am still peeking my head out there.

And of course, still thinking of my own blog.  I decided I needed a theme change.  But I can’t say this is the permanent one, or even the one for right now.  There are certain things I don’t like about it.  And there are certainly issues with the way some photos have been distorted on this theme.  The upshot is that other photos that had been constrained by my use of the old theme now appear larger.  But still – i think I need to go post by post and re-uploading…crikey.  But I am only going to do that once I settle on a theme.  This maybe a placeholder.

Ahhh, my beauty spending ban.  I have actually stuck to it.  Nary a single bottle, pot, or box has been bought.  I rarely go to Sephora or other beauty retailer, whether online or in store.  I think it’s nice because when I do go back, I am hoping for some surprises, which was the whole purpose of the spending ban.  I want to be surprised again by the new and the old – and that was surprising.  That I could be surprised by something I already owned.  Origins Stay Tuned Balancing Makeup is a great matte foundation for oilier skintypes and for humid weather.  It doesn’t give the most “natural” skin-like finish, but for those of use who require sweat-proof, acne-covering coverage – it’s awesome!  Usage of facial mists and highlighter powder can counter the matte effect, or you could just wait it out as your skin oils mix in with the foundation.  I found that I had to blot from oil breakthrough, but it only made my makeup look more natural.

I am currently using my Jemma Kidd Light As Air Foundation, which has been discontinued.   I couldn’t stand the black plastic tube bottle so I just dumped the contents in my used up Origins foundation bottle.  I hope to be done with it by the beginning of fall.  Once that’s done, I think I will keep that “empty” and use to repackage other foundations, like my broken bottle of Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup, which pumps out foundation on the sides, as well as from the nozzle.

Speaking of empties, while I enjoy others posting about them, I hate posting about them.  That was an interesting exercise and one that will stop for my blog.  Finishing a product gives me glee, but so does throwing it out.  I hated keeping empty bottles just to collect them.  I live in New York freaking City, keeping “garbage” is a no-no.  I am doing away with the few posts I did do (DELETING) and I won’t be posting them in the future either.  I get great satisfaction from dumping empty bottles, or even expired bottles.  Saving the bottles was messing with that bit of pleasure. So, soyonara!

Back on the beauty front, I am aware of some rather significant beauty launches…of course, Marc Jacobs Beauty is BUZZING.  I wasn’t all that thralled when I heard about it, and then I became a bit more, and then I just went mehhhhh.  I’ve read some of the previews and honestly I can’t tell if it’s just basic fangirl lemming and rhapsodizing about a brand as opposed to the actual product.  You know, sometimes, it is all about the BRAND and the ASSOCIATION.  So, maybe the “I can’t afford a Marc Jacobs blouse or bag” turns into a “but at least I can afford a $40 dollar foundation.”  (For the record, I can’t afford a Marc Jacobs blouse either.)  Every review I have read so far makes it sound like “PERFECTION.”  But I suspect it’s just brandolizing.  Having said that, I did notice some very distinct blush shades I would like to try out from Marc Jacobs Beauty Shameless Bold Blush in Outspoken (a lilac pink), Naughty ( a natural super light pink), and Promiscuous (described as a warm rose, but it looks like a muted dusty burgandy) and I am curious about their face powder.  Sadly, I have too many foundations still (NOT GOING BAD) for me to justify buying anymore after the ban.

But there are other products I am really intrigued by and i will be slapping down some money for.  I mean who wasn’t salivating over the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector PowderI kind of want to get them all….  :/  So much for my more frugal ways.  Also, Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Ultra Definition Pressed Finishing Powder sounds kind of awesome.  But will cheap packaging do them in?  Or will the shades I am looking at on my screen scream beigey-orange or brown?  I am super curious of Givenchy Teint Couture Long Wearing Compact Foundation, as well.  If you have noticed, there is a powder makeup theme going here.

Leaving the powders, I would love to try out the Hourglass Femme Nude Lip Stylo and find the perfect nude for me, which may be the Nude No. 4 or Nude No. 6.  Then there is the amazingly natural, yet made up look of Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro – yes, a now dated release, but such a great lip texture and long lasting color.  I absolutely loved 500 and 501, both nudish medium-pinks that dressed me up without dressing me over.  I almost broke my beauty ban over those two matte lip glosses.

New skincare products are always welcome, and I am curious about the new cleansing oils that are popping up.  I have my two favorite mainstays I have purchased over the years, Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil and DHC Deep Cleansing Oilplus the luxe Rodial GlamTox Cleansing Balmwhich I have written about a few times.  But I am always interested in new products, like Murad’s Renewing Cleansing Oil  and the oldie I haven’t quite gotten around to trying just yet, but really want to for some reason now, Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm.

I am always checking for new sunscreens and I haven’t thrown in the towel with Kate Somerville just because I couldn’t stand her Protect SPF 55 Serum suncreen, which is NOT ideal for oily, acne-prone skin.  So i am still curious about her new Daily Deflector Waterlight Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ PA +++ Anti-Aging Sunscreen.  And despite the fact that Sephora has been pushing their very much invested in Algenist brand, I still want to try Algenist Ultra Lightweight UV Defense Fluid SPF 50.

On my own personal skincare front, i realized a few weeks ago that what I had thought was a moderate to severe melasma problem had actually gotten much worse, and is in the severe category.  Most of the foundations I use now are darker, which makes sense – it’s the summer.  But the patches of my natural skin that have not been effected by melasma has shrunk to a small triangle area below my left eye.  It finally hit me that my over-pigmentation problem was exasperated by my use of RETIN-A MICRO.  I remembered that it was during grad school that someone pointed out to me that my forehead had gotten darker than the rest of my face (thanks!).  This was the time period I went on Seasonale (AWFUL) and when I started heavily using RETIN-A MICRO to clear up my increasingly bad hormonal breakouts.  Fast forward and my facial pigmentation has dramatically deepened compared to the rest of my unexposed body parts, which had nothing to do with with natural tanning.  RETIN-A MICRO is known to create inflammation and darkening in some skintones.  My desire to blast my acne off my face has led to some collateral damage that was far more significant than I thought.  My facial skin without foundation now looks mottled…sure, it’s wrinkless, but I definitely look tired and old and mottled.  I’ve already set up a dermatologist appointment and am ready to kick the RETIN-A MICRO habit…

Of course, something really interesting happened when I briefly mentioned in passing my melasma problem to some.  Apparently, it’s not ok to discuss melasma as a problem to a darker skinned person…I swear I got “side eyed” which really irritated me.  I am aware of the politics of skintone but if i can’t talk about a legitimate skin issue, without it being politicized then it’s the other person who needs to be headchecked.  i will leave it at that.

Overall, I am REALLY excited about the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  I received my first fall issue of newly redesigned Lucky Magazine, and it looks like a LUCKY-VOGUE  hybrid (sigh).  But it still an improvement from what it was before.  Sorry, former editors.  Glamour’s new Jennifer Aniston cover (again!) is tired and the issue – meh.  I am still waiting on Marie Claire, which has an amazingly gorgeous cover of Zooey Deschanel and Allure (don’t let me down!).

I can’t wait for a few new fashion updates.  My closets getting smaller and clothes more simple, and yet I am more satisfied.  Other than a new coat, winter boots, and new everyday casual shoes in the goes with everything taupe because I am obsessed with LESS, I am not really interested in clothes.  I am hunkering down and just thinking on finances and my financial future.  It happens.  I think it’s called being a grown up…and realizing your disposable income is not so disposable.  Those in marriages and with kids think about this stuff sooner for obvious reasons, but eventually even the single gal has to think about the future much more seriously.

Anyways, here is looking to fall! I hope to get the kinks out of the blog – theme-wise – and to start reposting again.  I hope you are all enjoying your summer!  If you haven’t figured it out, the bolded are clickable links so you can review the products at your leisure (all not affiliated).  See you soon in the blogging world.