My Current Skin Care Routine (Spring 2018) and Why I Don’t Focus on Anti-Aging

NB: All products mentioned here were bought with my own money, with the exception of Glossier Milky Jelly, which I often pay for, in part or in full, with affiliate credit, although I started using and loving it well before I ever had any store credit with Glossier. While the links in this post are non-affiliate, if you’re interested in supporting my blog by using my affiliate/referral links, they can all be found here.

Hello, lovely readers! I know I’ve been somewhat intermittent at updating this space, especially since I started making my YouTube tea sessions. Thank you to all of you who have checked out my videos and been so supportive. There is more tea to come. But, of course, I’m still interested in beauty and skin care, so I thought I’d share a bit about my current skin care (although most of it is based on old favorites) and somewhat about my beauty philosophy lately.

As some of you may know, I recently turned 35. While that doesn’t seem very old to me, it is the beginning of being considered a prime market for anti-aging products. And I certainly have some signs of aging. I have some lines across my forehead (one of them rather deep) and some fine lines around my eyes and upper lip. But I don’t focus specifically on “anti-aging” products in my routine. Honestly, I only use one proven anti-aging product and that’s sunscreen.

Basically, the first reason I don’t focus on anti-aging is that I’m not that old. I think I look my age (though others don’t always agree) and I think my skin looks great. Yes, my forehead wrinkles up a bit, especially when I talk, but that’s just because I’m an expressive person. Seriously, when I’m on stage, my eyebrows are like another character in the show. I don’t have any judgment of other people who pursue anti-aging in skincare; it’s just not a priority for me right now.

But the other reason I don’t use anti-aging products is that most products sold as “anti-aging” have limited science behind the claim except for retinoids and sunscreen. I currently use sunscreen because, c’mon, sunscreen. Use sunscreen. And I don’t use retinoids because I’m currently trying to conceive and previously had a miscarriage. Yes, I know that topical retinoids have zero evidence of issues in pregnancy, especially over-the-counter retinols. But guess what? It’s not worth it to me (see reason one) to use something that could make me mentally feel responsible if something happened to a future pregnancy again. It’s slightly irrational, but so are most fears (except spiders). I will probably start using a gentle retinol after pregnancy is no longer an issue for me.

So I don’t focus on anti-aging. So what *do* I focus on? Well, my number one focus is avoiding things to which my skin is sensitive. This means no high-pH cleansers (high pH for my picky skin is 5.5, but that’s just me), no butters or oils that have caused me a reaction, no fragrances, no essential oils that have caused me a reaction, no heavy-duty exfoliants. After that, I also focus on thorough cleansing, hydration, and protection. Some of my products do have incidental anti-aging ingredients in them, but my primary reason for using them is because of their hydrating or soothing qualities.

My Current Routine:

My current routine has grown out of several years’ worth of following a variety of skin blogs and sites from around the world. Particular shout-out to Caroline Hirons who taught me that hydration was so important for acne-prone skin. I suppose I should say a little about my skin type: I have combination skin, though I’m becoming more “normal” as I persist with a decent skin care routine. I get a little oilier in the summer and a little drier in the winter, so it’s important to note that this is my spring routine, rather than my heavier winter routine. If I break out, it’s generally either hormonal or because of a few well-known triggers (shea butter, coconut oil, sometimes olive oil). My skin just drinks up hydration and occasionally hates organic sun filters. So on to the products:

Products:

Oil-based cleanser: Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm
Water-based cleanser: Glossier Milky Jelly (referral link above)
Vitamin C: COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid (referral link above)
Chemical exfoliant: Stratia Soft Touch AHA
Face mist: Heritage Store Lavender Water and Glycerin
Hydrating Serum: Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate
Facial Oil: Jordan Samuel Skin Etoile
Moisturizer: CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream
SPF: Make P:rem Blue Ray Sun Cream (referral link above)
Clay mask: NOW European Green Clay mixed with water or mist
Sheet mask: Make P:rem Safe Relief Moisture Mask (referral link above)

Okay, so this is a lot of products, and I haven’t separated this out into AM and PM routines. That’s because I use basically the same products day and night. My routines generally have the format cleanse-active-nourish-protect. So my AM routine is:

  1. Water-based cleanser
  2. Vitamin C
  3. Face mist
  4. Hydrating serum
  5. Moisturizer
  6. SPF

and my PM routine is:

  1. Oil-based cleanser
  2. Water-based cleanser
  3. Exfoliant (three times a week)
  4. Face mist
  5. Hydrating serum
  6. Facial oil
  7. Moisturizer

and then once a week, on Sundays, I do a clay mask between my two evening cleanses and put a sheet mask on after my facial oil. So it’s not a 10-step routine, but it’s not 3-step either. BUT, I can use these products in a 3-step routine, if I really need to. If I really need to, and I’m not using waterproof eye makeup or sunscreen, I can do a PM routine of water-based cleanser, hydrating serum, and facial oil, or an AM routine of a splash with water, hydrating serum, and SPF. Because my skin is resilient enough not to need all the steps all the time. I’ve talked before about how it’s important to have a minimum acceptable routine so that you can do *something* rather than go to bed with makeup/sunscreen/city grime on your face just because you’re too tired/sick/hungover/drunk to face a seven-step routine.

So that’s how I currently treat my skin, for spring 2018. It’s a pretty stable routine, though I had some heavier moisturizers for winter that I’ve stopped using since it’s not frigid cold anymore. And I’ve recently bought a couple of things to test, so we’ll see how it shakes out in the future. But I think my skin is in a nice place. I’d love to hear about others’ routines!

NB: All products mentioned here were bought with my own money, with the exception of Glossier Milky Jelly, which I often pay for, in part or in full, with affiliate credit. While the above links are non-affiliate, if you’re interested in supporting my blog by using my affiliate/referral links, they can all be found here.

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Beauty Round-up: Inorganic Sunscreens

So I mentioned a few months ago that when I first found out I was pregnant, my first sign that something was up was that my skin freaked out. Now, so much skincare advice for pregnant women suggests using “mineral” sunscreen filters instead of organic “chemical” filters for various reasons, of varying levels of validity. But the primary reason I decided was because of the increased risk of skin sensitivity. And when my skin broke out in a rash, I decided to go to only inorganic filters (i.e., zinc oxide or titanium dioxide). But inorganic filters come with drawbacks: a thick feel, white cast, etc.

So anyway, I started looking for inorganic sunscreens. There are plenty of recommendations out there. In fact, one of my favorite YouTubers, Renee at Gothamista, did a video about her favorite ones recently. And they’re also pretty easy to find at the store where we shop. After a few months of trial and error, I thought I’d share some of the formulations that I found myself reaching for over and over again.

Now, one of the main issues I’ve had with inorganic sunscreens is that the formulations are not usually very cosmetically elegant. A lot of companies that make them focus on “natural” ingredient standards, which means they use a lot of plant oils and butters, leading to a thick product. Ironically, because the inorganic filters ingredients themselves are white powders, they can also make a product drying or mattifying. So plenty of the products I tried were too thick or too drying or both. And some products were great in the summer but to dry for winter. I’ve put together some of my favorites for both situations.

Avene Mineral Ultra-light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion: This was the first suggestion from Renee that I tried. And, wow, is it hydrating. Unfortunately, this was a bit too much for me in the summer when I first tried it, but I found it was great for the weekend when we went up to the Pocanos for the weekend in the early fall. It does leave a bit of white residue, but it’s great for lazy days. Just cleanse and slap it on. So this isn’t my favorite, but I do use it regularly.

Mychelle Unscented Sun Shield: This is one I used frequently when I still sought out natural skin care products. It’s thick and white, but still manages to dry down to a nice texture. It does leave a little white residue in my eyebrows. And it’s dry in the winter. But for summer? Love it.

Mychelle Sun Shield Liquid Tint: This was an impulse buy at the natural foods store, but I still use it every week. It’s tinted, but sheer enough that I can use a lot of it without looking like a mask. It just gives a little light coverage. This pretty much stays in my gym bag and I use it as a one-step sunscreen and makeup step when I’m rushing to get ready after barre class.

Make P:rem Blue Ray Sun Cream: This is an interesting one. I don’t love this sunscreen, but I love the fact that I get only minimal white residue around my eyebrows even though it has SPF50. It’s a bit dry of a finish for winter, but I can see myself reaching for it more when the weather warms up.

Mychelle Replenishing Solar Defense: And this is my current favorite. It’s lightweight, spreads easily, doesn’t leave a white cast on my skin, and feels lightly moisturizing (over a serum and cream, but hey, the East Coast has been going through some rough weather). I hope this will still work in the summer with fewer moisturizing layers underneath, but even if it doesn’t, it’s a great winter sunscreen for me.

So that’s my roundup. If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Five Things for which I’m Thankful During a Rough Month

So I’ve made some vague, cryptic allusions to having a “tough time” lately. I’m not really ready to talk about it more concretely than that, but suffice to say, I’ve had a bit more than the normal amount of both physical and emotional hardships for the last month or so. As things (I hope!) start to ease up, I’ve been thinking about the things that I’ve really leaned on to help brighten my days, and thought it would be an appropriate post for today.

Multi-functional beauty products: I’ve been having a hard time either working up the motivation to do a skin care routine or finding the physical stamina to take long showers, so I’ve been leaning heavily on my Stratia Liquid Gold and HIF cleansing conditioners the past few weeks. When I don’t feel like doing a full routine, I can ask my husband to bring up the bottle of Liquid Gold (it’s distinctive color makes it easy for him to pick out on my vanity). Then, I just need to make it to the bathroom long enough to brush my teeth and doing at least one cleanse, and I can slather on a few pumps of Liquid Gold right before my head hits the pillow. And now that my hair is a bit shorter, a single wash with the HIF cleansing conditioner is enough to keep my hair happy for a bit. I choose Intensive Detox or Hydration Support based on how long it’s been since my last shower. I really wish they would get their 1-L bottles back in stock.

Trader Joe’s: We don’t shop at TJ’s often because the closest one is still not terribly convenient. But we’ve found ourselves in the neighborhood lately and have stocked up, particularly on their frozen food. It’s nice that for $40 or so, we can have almost a week’s worth of food that is easy to prepare and doesn’t contain the ingredients that tend to give me migraines, which are in a lot of prepared foods. And I’m not spending all our money on Seamless. My particular favorites are the frozen croissants, orange chicken, and tamales.

My 25-oz. Camelbak water bottle: I drink a lot of water throughout the day, and when I’m at home, that means getting up every hour or so to refill my glass. Since I’ve been spending more time resting on the sofa, I just fill up the bottle and save a few trips. I can also bring it with me when I’m going to be out for an unknown amount of time.

Leggings and thick socks: I’m not really a fan of socks usually, but it’s been cold. My standard uniform lately has been an oversize sweatshirt or tunic worn over leggings with a thick pair of socks. Sometimes I swap the top out for a tunic t-shirt and a long cardigan.

Pat McGrath LuxeTrance lipstick in “Beautiful Creature”: I bought this as a bit of a retail therapy back when this whole thing started at the end of October. I haven’t been wearing a lot of makeup lately, but when I feel really crappy, but I have to go out and I want to feel a bit more put-together, a swipe of really nice lipstick can go a long way. And this is really nice lipstick. The color is a deep rose pink that looks neutral enough not to look “dolled up,” but is dark enough to add a bit of contrast to my face. It’s a great autumn color. And the formula is amazing. It’s creamy going on, but sets to an almost-matte finish that does transfer, but also leaves enough color on your lips to not need a touch-up after drinking or light eating. Seriously, I wore this to the doctor’s office and it helped.

Beauty Review: Neocell Collagen serum and mask

NB: These products were sent to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. For more information, click here.

A little while ago, I was contacted by a rep from the company Neocell about trying some of their products. Looking up the company, I found that they primarily market collagen and other dietary supplements, so I politely declined, as I already have a supplement regimen in place and am not in the market for others. When she mentioned that they also sell topical products, I was intrigued, and agreed to test out a serum and a wash-off mask.

A couple weeks later, I opened my box to find a bottle of Collagen+C Liposome Serum and a jar of the Collagen Moisturizing Treatment Masque. The serum was in an airless pump, similar to the type of pump used by Makeup Artist’s Choice for their serums, while the mask came in a small jar. I tested the serum for a few weeks, while I only tried the mask once. Unfortunately, my (unrelated) skin freak out happened toward the tail end of testing these products, but I still feel like I’ve gotten a sense of how I like them.

The Collagen+C Liposome Serum is a translucent gel serum that contains soluble collagen, vitamin C (in the form of ascorbyl palmitate), amino acids, and vitamin E. While the exact percentage of ascorbyl palmitate is not stated, there is research that ascorbyl palmitate in topical preparations can have some of the same benefits of ascorbic acid, while being less sensitive to pH. Therefore, I do not worry about a wait time after this serum. There is actually limited evidence that collagen in topical preparations has much benefit beyond retaining hydration. So I did not go into this test with high hopes, to be honest. But I found that after replacing my COSRX Triple-C serum with this for two weeks, I did not notice new breakouts, and noticed my existing lingering marks fading nearly as quickly as they had been. While I would not buy this again for myself, it is a simple serum, containing a potentially-effective form of vitamin C, and that doesn’t require worry about pH, all at a very reasonable price, so I might consider suggesting this to a friend or family member who wanted to improve their skin routine without going all-in the way I have.

The Collagen Moisturizing Treatment Mask was different. It contains moisturizers and collagen, as well as several essential oils and plant extracts. I personally found the scent a bit strong for me — it smells fairly strongly of sandalwood and patchouli, which are not scents I’m fond of. I also don’t tend to use moisturizing wash-off masks, so I think I applied it a bit too thickly and had trouble washing it off. That said, despite the strong essential oils, this mask did not irritate my skin at all, and I did notice a moisturizing effect after leaving it on for half an hour. So if it were reformulated to reduce the scent, I would consider buying it again. And if you like sandalwood and patchouli, definitely give it a try.

Matcha Week! Matcha Face and Hair Masks

This week, I’m celebrating Matcha Week to highlight all the ways I use matcha besides in my morning bowl of traditional thin matcha. I’m promoting my Volition Beauty campaign for a matcha-infused dual-targeted hair mask, which has just over a month longer to get all the votes it needs to go into production. Help me out by voting here, and maybe share my campaign with your friends and followers to help make this product a reality.

Today, I’m talking about the homemade ways I use matcha in my beauty routines by talking about recipes for a matcha face mask and a matcha hair mask. Anyone who follows my Instagram Story might have caught me a few weeks ago being silly with a very green face mask. Spending 10-20 minutes with green goo on my face gave me a lot of time to make copious references to Kermit the Frog and the Incredible Hulk. But matcha face masks are not just for nerdy references and Instagram photo ops. I found that my matcha face mask helps keep my skin soft and clear. I already use a weekly clay mask, but adding some extra goodies just amps up the effect on my skin.

My go-to recipe is more semi-homemade than a real DIY. I take about a 1/2 tsp. of matcha and 1/2-1 tsp. of raw honey and add it to my favorite clay mask (the Cattier green clay). I mix that up, adding a few drops of my favorite hydrating toner (Klairs) if it’s a bit dry, until it’s about the consistency of frosting. I brush that onto dry skin after oil cleansing and leave it on for 10-20 minutes. Then, I rinse it off and wash with my second cleanser to remove bits of mask. The matcha I use is just a cheap culinary-grade powder from Amazon and it’s not the finest grind, so I get a bit of physical exfoliation when I rinse, so I avoid chemical exfoliants when I use this mask. And I always use a hydrating sheet mask afterwards, as is my custom when I use a clay mask.

For my hair, I like to add the matcha and honey to my favorite clarifying shampoo, which is currently the HiF Intensive Detox. This is technically a cleansing conditioner, but it cleanses well and its thick consistency makes it nice for a hair mask. I apply the mask to the roots of wet hair and let it sit for 3-5 minutes while I do other shower things. I usually apply a moisturizing mask to my ends while I’m masking my roots. Then, I rinse everything out really, really thoroughly. Of course, if you’re interested in matcha hair masking but don’t want to mess around with mixing your own, you can always support my Volition campaign (hint).

So that’s yet another way I add matcha to my life each week, other than just drinking it traditionally. I hope I can inspire you to experiment with adding tea to your beauty routine.

Matcha Week! My Go-To Matcha Lattes

Hello, strangers! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I thought I’d make this week Matcha Week, in honor of my continuing campaign over at Volition Beauty. I only have about a month left to get the votes for my dual-targeted matcha hair mask, so I’d love it if my readers would help support me in this. I’ve talked about my hair double-masking practice in the past, and I think it would be so cool if a commercial product could be made aimed at this idea. Please head over to this link to vote for my campaign, and please feel free to share the link at your own online space. I can use all the help I can get!

So to highlight matcha today, I’m going to talk briefly about matcha lattes. While most of my matcha is consumed in bowls of traditional thin matcha, I sometimes just want a little more of a treat. Especially with the weather cooling down, a hot matcha latte is a great alternative to hot chocolate, although I still enjoy an iced matcha latte before I go to the gym sometimes.

For a hot matcha latte, I’ve started using my higher grade matcha because I find that the better quality matcha means that I can use little or no sugar in my latte. I simply mix 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of matcha powder (or 2-3 chashaku scoops) with about an ounce of hot water, and then top it with hot frothed milk. My favorite matcha for this is my Matchaeologist Meiko matcha, which is their lowest-priced ceremonial grade. This is a matcha that is lovely made just with water, but still has enough oomph to cut through the richness of the local whole milk in my latte.

For an iced latte, I could just use the same procedure as above, but use cold milk and pour it over ice. But when I’m going to the gym, I sometimes find that dairy upsets my stomach, so I’ve created a vegan iced matcha latte using high-quality unsweetened almond milk, culinary-grade matcha, and a little bit of maple syrup to make up for the lack of milk sugars. My standard recipe is to put 2-3 scoops of Matchaeologist Midori matcha in the bottom of a mason jar, and then add 2 tsp. of maple syrup and 1 oz. of hot water. I stir this together and then pour in 8 oz. of cold unsweetened almond milk (Three Trees brand is my absolute favorite, but it’s expensive, so I also like New Barn). I then cap the jar and shake it vigorously until everything is mixed together, and then pour it over ice. If I’m having it before the gym, I can add a scoop of collagen protein for an added boost. This is also quite a refreshing post-run drink during the summer.

So that’s today’s offering for Matcha Week. Join me back here on Wednesday and Friday as I share more ways I use matcha besides just mixing it with water in the traditional style!

NB: While the matchas I mentioned in this post were purchased with a discount for review, all opinions are my own. For more information about sponsorship, see this page. Links are not affiliate links.

How I Alter My Routine When My Skin is Irritated

Once again, I’ve been quiet on the blog. This happens every so often, and once again, it’s a mix of various other personal commitments, as well as a new project that I teased on Instagram yesterday. But one of the reasons I’ve been quiet is because I’ve had to largely put my beauty product testing on hold as I deal with my skin just freaking out for about a week.

A little over a week ago, I noticed my skin getting a bit dry around my jawline. Overnight, it went from “huh, maybe I should put a little extra moisture there” to a breakout and dry, scaly skin at the same time. It itched and was red. It was highly unpleasant, and I basically had to stop wearing all complexion makeup, despite having some very angry spots, because my skin was just too flaky for any makeup to stay looking good for longer than a half an hour.

My first instinct was to cut my skin routine down to the bare minimum: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I started using only my Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser, Avene Skin Comfort creme, and Avene Mineral sunscreen. That seemed to not make things much worse, although I was worried about removing a water-resistant sunscreen with a water-based cleanser. So I got a new bottle of Simple Hydrating Cleansing oil.

This basic routine helped calm my skin down, in terms of the redness and irritation. The cleansing oil lacks fragrance while the Milky Jelly is the only cleanser that has never irritated any part of my face. The Avene creme is a rich cream with simple ingredients and mineral oil for some occlusion to help my skin hold onto what little hydration it had left. And I opted for a moisturizing sunscreen using inorganic filters, as I’ve had irritation from organic filters in the past and just didn’t want to take any chances. I will say that, in general, I don’t consider inorganic filters superior and I look forward to feeling confident using my organic filter sunscreens again.

From there, my skin calmed, but didn’t heal. I needed hydration for that. I slowly started adding in some other products, and also started using a sunscreen with a slightly less moisturizing finish. My beloved Klairs toner was the first to be added back in, along with COSRX Acne patches for the spots that had sprung up. I also added some skin barrier support in the form of my A’pieu Madecassocide cream and Cerave Baby Moisturizing Cream. And eventually I tried a sheet mask, opting for the Klairs Rich Moist Soothing mask, which has very similar ingredients to the toner, and which I’ve used before to soothe hot or sensitive skin after spending time in the sun.

For the most part, I chose not to use any products that were completely new to me. The one exception I tried was to finally open up one of the generous samples of Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream that I received in my last two W2Beauty orders. I’d been curious about using this cream as a spot treatment on a few places that tend to be irritated, and when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, I tried it out. It worked beautifully and now I’m tempted to buy a full-sized jar of it just in case this sort of thing happens again, or just for a spot treatment of the redness around my nostrils and under my lower lip.

So there you have it. A story of skin drama and recovery, starring, for the most part, products I’ve been using for a while and that I know help my skin relax, heal, and stop being irritated. I hope my experience might help someone else facing a similar issue deal with their own skin freakout. Generally, my advice would be to cut back to your bare minimum products, use only products that are very familiar to your skin, and add back in hydration and barrier support as your skin starts to calm down.

An Exciting New Project: Dual Hair Mask with Volition Beauty

I’ve got a rather exciting announcement today. For the last few months, I’ve been working with Volition Beauty to develop an idea for a commercial version of my hair multi-masking technique and yesterday, the voting campaign went live. Meet the Dual-Targeted Matcha Hair Mask.

Now, the way this works is that Volition mocks up the idea and puts it up for a vote. If enough people vote for a product, they develop it into reality. So now begins the process of asking you, my readers, to help me bring this truly into reality.

A bit about the product idea: I’ve written in the past about how I use a double-masking technique to address the different needs of my hair versus my scalp. I brought this idea to Volition and they came up with the additional idea of infusing the ingredients with one of my favorite things: matcha green tea. The scalp mask is targeted at reducing scalp oil, while the other will contain ingredients aimed at nourishing dry length. Of course, the product will be free of sulfates, and will take advantage of both the nourishing and stimulating properties of green tea.

So, please take a look. Voting does not obligate you to buy the product, but if you decide you would like to buy it in the future, voting gives you a little discount off the list price. I’m exciting for this and I hope some others will be too.

Beauty Review: A’pieu Madecassoside Cream

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been provided no incentive to review it. All opinions are my own.

I mentioned this in my recent round-up of things that I’ve been enjoying, but I thought I’d take some time to share more thoughts on this little cream. Like many things, I bought this after an enabling review by Tracy at Fanserviced-B. I liked the idea of a moisturizer that was hydrating, soothing, dried matte, didn’t have any potential acne triggers, and was around $12 for a tube.

I found it on Jolse with free shipping and ordered it along with a couple other things I’d been eyeing. It took a few weeks to arrive from Korea. When it arrived, I immediately opened it to smell it because isn’t that what everyone does with new skin care? Squirt it on your hand, rub it around, and sniff?

Anyway, the smell is fresh, clean, slightly herbal-medicinal, and thoroughly inoffensive. The texture was thicker than I expected for a cream free of emollients and doesn’t have the “water drop” effect of many gel-creams. It spreads easily, sinks in quickly, and dries down to a semi-matte finish, but without any hint of dry feeling on the skin. It’s brilliant under sunscreen because the ever-so-slightly moist feeling it leaves plays well with lightweight, alcohol-containing sunscreens. But I’ve used it under my alcohol-free Canmake Mermaid UV Skin Gel with great success, too.

I also find it mildly soothing, although at the end of the day, it shines as a simple, inexpensive hydrating cream. I mostly use it during the day over hydrating toner and under sunscreen and makeup, but I’ve also used it as a final nighttime step on the few really sticky nights this summer. I even find that the finish is non-greasy enough that COSRX Master Patches will stick over it. And finally, I’ve been using it for over a month now with no indication that it has any negative effects. I’m definitely planning to repurchase this, as I’m curious how it will hold up over the winter.

On Fragrance, Memory, and Beauty

NB: I purchased these products with my own money and was provided no incentive to review them. All thoughts are my own. Post contains no affiliate links.

As I’ve written in the past, I’m a lover of perfumes, although I’m also highly sensitive to unpleasant scents. I find my enthusiasm dampens when I discover a scent I loved in the morning has morphed into something unpleasant by afternoon, or has started to give me a headache. I’ve actually had to discontinue beloved scents upon realizing that they are a headache trigger.

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But lately, I’ve found myself drawn to an unexpected brand: Atelier Cologne. This French brand creates perfumes that are centered around a single note idea, but that are much more complex and rounded than a single-note perfume. As someone who gravitates towards single-note, floral perfumes, Atelier’s collection of primarily fruity and complex scents was an odd fit.

I found the brand when one of their perfumes, Orange Sanguine, came in a boxed set I purchased from Sephora. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked the scent, but I didn’t hate it, so I decided to slip it into my gym bag. The first day I put it on, I remember thinking that it was sexy for a citrus scent. Then, as the day wore on, I realized that I was not getting my typical perfume-induced headache in the mid-afternoon.

From there, I decided I wanted to try more. I bought their eight-piece discovery set from Sephora, which included only one of my favored floral scents, and at least one version of my arch nemesis: vanilla. I’ve always hated scents that have any vanilla in them at all, but I was told that Atelier’s Vanille Insensée was vanilla for people who hate vanilla.

A few of the scents smell decidedly androgynous to me, which I love. I once stole my boyfriend’s Acqua di Gio because it went well with my body chemistry. Some days, I feel like wearing Cèdre Atlas because its clean cedar-and-citrus notes fit my mood. Other days, I’ll blossom into my femininity with Sud Magnolia, a floral that is typical of my own classic tastes.

But most other days, I choose one of the citruses: clementine, pomelo, orange, bergamot, or mandarine. All are fresh, with their own complexity and charm. Each evokes a subtly different mood. The more masculine notes of Clémentine California reminds me of a young man with whom I danced at a middle school mixer, while Pomelo Paradis reminds me of pink grapefruit juice and, oddly, of eating breakfast with my father when I was a child.

Because scent is a powerful evoker of memory and emotion. Smelling the grapefruit-like notes of the pomelo transports me to my childhood dining table where I watched in rapt horror as my father spooned yogurt over his bran flakes and mixed them into a chunk mass. While the green-toned citrus of Clémentine California brings me back to that moment at a dance when a boy asked me to dance with him. I never knew his name or even saw him after that dance, but for those three minutes, I was a regular kid, and not a weird misfit.

Even just writing this post, I could choose a scent at random and the depth of character of each perfume would bring up something different. Which is why I love perfume and will always try to find ones I can use, despite the fact that it often ends in a headache. At least I’ve found my Atelier Colognes. And in the future, I hope to even try their rose or jasmine scents, which promise to be something sublime to my tastes.