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Belle's Best Skincare Buys of 2012

2012 has come and gone, but she left a lasting mark on my medicine cabinet.  Here are six skincare discoveries made in 2012 that I still adore in 2013.

One.  I love most of the products in Ole Henriksen’s African Red Tea skincare line, but Express the Truth ($65) is my favorite.  This rich creme provides my skin with the perfect amount of moisture without being overpowering.  It’s also packed with the antioxidants skin needs to recharge itself, plus Vitamin C and copper to stimulate collagen production.  It’s the best choice for my no-longer-25-year-old skin.

Two. I discovered IS Clinical Active Serum ($128) after a particularly bad breakout, and it’s been part of my daily routine ever since.  The serum has anti-acne, anti-aging and brightening benefits.  It also leaves my skin feeling really soft.  And the best part?  Since I started using it, the wrinkles on my forehead are much less noticeable. 

Three.  Ingrown hairs are the often-unavoidable result of waxing and shaving, especially around the bikini line. (Ouch!)  I’ve tried wipes, lotions and creams to the prevent them, but Whish Ingrown Hair Serum ($22.50) is the only product that has a better than 90% success rate.  I could not live comfortably without it.

Four.  Aztec Secret Healing Clay ($9) is also a reader recommendation, and one which I should have tried much sooner.  When mixed with apple cider vinegar and a few drops of tea tree oil, this powder becomes the world’s most amazing face mask.

The mask detoxifies, heals acne, gives pores a shrunken appearance and leaves skin feeling softer and smoother than you thought possible.  One word of caution though, it will make your skin a little red,  but that side effect usually resolves itself after 20 or 30 minutes.  

Five. The Say Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Wipes ($8) are the best makeup removing towelette that I have ever tried.  They remove every bit of foundation, blush and eye shadow and 90% of my mascara without stripping the skin or leaving a greasy feeling behind.  Definitely a great drugstore find.

Six.  I discovered the Clarisonic in 2008, but thanks to a reader’s recommendation, I took my adoration to a higher level in 2012 when I purchased their brush head for acne prone skin and their acne cleansing wash.  Now that I have the right brush head and cleanser for my skin type, my love for the Clarisonic has turned into something of an obsession.

If you’ve been dying to try the Clarisonic, you can purchase a Mia in any one of their fabulous colors for $119 + 20-percent-off at Skinstore.com.  You can also purchase the Mia, the acne brush head and the daily acne cleansing wash for $169 + 20-percent-off.  Just use discount code NY20.  This is one product that really is worth the money.

So what was the best skincare product you bought in 2012?  And are there any you’re desperate to try in 2013?



  1. Dallas says:

    Belle, did you find when you first started using the clarasonic, your breakouts got worse for a little while? it seems like every time I use it, I have very small breakouts — almost like it's breaking gunk to the surface or something? I've only had it a week so I'm still thinking maybe my skin is trying to get used to the process?

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  2. Mallory says:

    I definitely saw my breakouts uptick slightly when I first got my Clarisonic, but it turned around drastically after 2 weeks.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  3. Dallas says:

    Thanks, Mallory! I'll stick with it for a few weeks and see how it does….

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  4. Rory says:

    I think this is the year I'm going to break down and get a Clarsonic. I've been using the Olay version for two years and while it's not bad, I'd like to get something with some more ommph. I'm also planning on getting more Ole Henriksen. I found some of the African Tea kits for half-price at Sephora one day and bought all three of them. They're running out so come tax return time I'm going to buy everything in the big bottles.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  5. Terri says:

    Rory – you will not be sorry. It was Belle that got me hooked on Ole Henriksen. I bout a “kit” two years ago and have not gone back. It seems pricey, but lasts a while and the results justify the expense. I also broke down and bought a Clarisonic. How I wish I had done this years ago. What a difference! The combination is unbeatable.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  6. Terri says:

    Clarification – I mean I have not gone back to what I was using before and have stuck with the Henriksen products. oops

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  7. MA says:

    I was recently introduced to GlamGlow. It's an amazing face mask. https://www.glamglowmud.com/products/very-sexy.html/

    You can get it on Amazon for $42. Birch Box has it too – so you can use points to pay! Sephora carries it … in other words, it is easy to find.

    It tingles and is amazing.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  8. ChinaRette says:

    Do some of the Ole Henriksen products come in pump-top? I strongly prefer to use those, since dipping your fingers in jar-type packaged products builds up bacteria more quickly…

    I know manufacturers think the screw-top jars feel more luxurious and expensive, but I wish they'd give consumers both options! I love my Laura Mercier creme foundation, but I'm seriously considering switching since it's in a pot.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  9. Jill says:

    I asked for (and received) the Clarisonic Acne brush head for Christmas, after reading about it here. I've been using the delicate but am excited to try this one out. I think I need to try out the Whish serum too!

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  10. strin012 says:

    A word of warning on the Clarisonic Acne wash: Some skin types cannot handle salicylic acid in the wash (including mine). Several years ago, my dermatologist told me that it dries my skin out, which causes oil overproduction and bad breakouts. I tried the acne wash to experiment but it caused terrible, painful breakouts for me.

    I use Clean and Clear's Advantage 3-in-1 Exfoliating cleanser. Its active ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, which is still very strong, but does much better with my skin. I actually used this facewash before I got the Clarisonic and thought it was ok. However, the Clarisonic plus the facewash is like magic.

    Link here: https://www.cleanandclear.com/products/facial-cleansers/advantage-3-in-1-exfoliating-cleanser

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  11. Belle says:

    MA: This Clay has very similar results to the GlamGlow (which I also like). And it's so much cheaper, I can't justify that little tub of glam glow.

    ChinaRette: I've never seen any, but I try to wash my hands before I use them. And you could always transfer them to a squeeze bottle if you wanted.

    Dallas: Yes, I did have that, but I never put it together that it was the Clarisonic. (Love makes you blind.) But when a reader suggested the acne brush head I made the connection and the switch, and I haven't experienced that since.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  12. H. says:

    Belle/commenters, I was wondering if you had any recommendations of favorite Kiehl's skincare products. I got a nice gift certificate for Christmas, but have never bought their products. FYI, I'm 31 with generally nice skin, so while I'd love to buy a good general moisturizer, I'm probably less in need of a super-specialized or older-skewing product. Thanks!

    Dallas: I had the same experience with the Clarisonic when I first got mine. I felt like it was forcing out all the buried gunk in my face for about two weeks, but I haven't had more than the occasional whitehead ever since. Good luck!

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  13. Belle says:

    Strin012: That's a good tip. The Clarisonic wash is actually the only salycilic wash I have ever tried that didn't dry me out. I think they put aloe in it or something, but regardless, I use it everyday with no ill effect.

    H.: I like their Eye Alert, and their Creme de Corps body lotion is to die for.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  14. Amy says:

    Belle- do you find the Say Yes to Blueberry makeup remover towelettes make your skin more acne-prone? Like you, I have occasional acne issues and I tend to avoid any towelettes with oil in them, as they have usually caused breakouts.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  15. Isabel says:

    H.- I am 30 and my favorite Kiehl's products are the Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado, Midnight Recovery Concentrate, Midnight Recovery Eye, and Creme de Corps.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  16. Courtney says:

    Anybody have any recommendations for a good facial moisturizer with sunscreen that doesn't make you break out?

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  17. J says:

    Courtney: I've always used Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer for Sensitive skin. It's really cheap, has broadband sunscreen, and is fragrance and oil free so it doesn't contribute to breakouts.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  18. Rachel says:

    Courtney: I like Boscia's Oil Free Moisturizer. It's not cheap, but a little goes a long way. I've found that if I apply it to my face when it's damp, it get more mileage. It's one of the few moisturizer's if found that doesn't leave my face feeling oily or sticky.


    January 2, 2013/Reply
  19. Cassandra says:

    My best beauty find of 2012 (besides Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse BB Cream, which I already know Belle won't like) is Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant: https://www.birchbox.com/shop/dermalogica-daily-microfoliant

    Definitely on the pricey side, but it's done wonders to brighten up my super-sensitive, acne-prone skin. It lasts forever, too — I got my bottle in October and have used maybe a quarter of it.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  20. Belle says:

    Cassandra: With you on the micro exfoliate, still giving Dr. Jart the side eye. That detox BB creme was not good.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  21. E says:

    Belle- I know you've posted about this in the past but I'm looking for the best under-eye night cream, as well something in the morning before I put on makeup to help with the dark circles! Thanks for the great blog.

    January 2, 2013/Reply
  22. CBK says:

    H: Kiehl's Creme de Corps will change your mind on what a body lotion should be. Additionally, I love their Rosa Arctica line like Belle loves her Clarisonic! The Rosa Arctica line is simply my favorite general skin care (I use Claudalie and Ole Henriksen for speciality issues).

    That being said, E: the Rosa Arctica eye repair brought back my natural cat eye shape that I thought too much work and not enough sleep had banished forever. It's light, gentle and effective.

    January 3, 2013/Reply
  23. H. says:

    Thanks Belle, Isabel, and CBK! I've ordered a number of your recs, including the body lotion.

    January 3, 2013/Reply
  24. AT says:

    Belle – I ordered the iS Clinical Serum at your suggestion and I noticed it did dry my skin out a little bit (which you hinted also happened to you in one of your posts and/or comment section.) When do you use the Red Tea moisturizer? Before or after? Do you wait in between for a period of time? I really want this product to work for me so I'm hopeful maybe I'm doing something wrong rather than giving up and going back to the drawing board. ­čÖé

    January 3, 2013/Reply
  25. Belle says:

    AT: It did for awhile, it doesn't anymore. I use the serum first, wait ten minutes, acne cream second, and then moisturizer. I also switched to a gentler soap, so that probably had something to do with the clearing up the dryness.

    January 3, 2013/Reply
  26. R says:

    Courtney: I use Yes to Carrots spf moisturizer. Oil of Olay broke me out. I also like Philosophy's Hope spf moisturizer, but not the price.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  27. adrienne says:

    belle, what proportions do you use for the african clay mask

    January 8, 2013/Reply
  28. Belle says:

    Adrienne: I start with 50/50. Sometimes I add a bit more cider vinegar. It takes a lot less to cover your whole face than you imagine. Maybe a 1/2 tablespoon, plus a little.

    January 8, 2013/Reply