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Personal care

Our random beauty samples opened, tested and reviewed

Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Words by Tracey Creed & Amandine Paniagua

Published July 13 2021

Every time [or at least it seems that way] we purchase a new beauty product, we receive samples. However, once you've developed a conscious mind regarding our environment, the idea of sampling is one of love-hate. On the one hand, trying a sample before buying a full-size product helps make a more informed choice, trialling texture, scent and patch testing while avoiding impulse purchases and product waste. On the other, samples rarely have an expiration date. We tend to store them at the bottom of a drawer and forget about their existence. And the packaging is a significant issue. Ideologically, samples are wasteful, and even if recyclable, their formats are too small to be recognised by recycling machines.

Arnaud Meysselle, REN CEO, described sachet samples as the "dark secret of the beauty industry." The proliferation of sample and travel-size products—the minis, is now a recognised issue within the sustainable beauty conversation because they are more often than not thrown away due to their volume. More recently, resale platforms are also emerging, providing the opportunity to sell unopened or barely-used beauty products, including samples—reducing waste somehow. Product is product.

Packaging, in general, is an issue. That said, this past April, REN, Biossance, Caudalie, Herbivore and Youth To The People—competing brands within the beauty space collectively announced their pledge to zero-waste. And yes, this included the elimination of sachets samples this July. Rethinking packaging, leaning heavily towards recyclable or compostable materials requires additional spend. And companies don't want to budge on their sales or bottom line, so they're unwilling to make sustainable changes unless there's a business case. Hence, packaging has been done a certain way for decades, so let's take this recent brand coalition as a sign that more people are getting serious about packaging reform.

In the meantime, we have our samples, so we decided to use them and share what we think. And as always, these brands are vegan and cruelty-free, formulated from clean ingredients. So if you had been contemplating your next cleanser or mask purchase, you might find it below.

Go-To Fancy Face

Out of Trace’s monthly Mecca box, Fancy Face is an effective cleansing oil blend meant to melt away any pollution rime, sunscreen or long-wear makeup without irritating the skin. The key oils are sunflower with camelia plus sweet almond—the former providing high levels of healing fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E, the latter another swell of vitamins and amino acids, for rejuvenating, gentle nourishment. Fancy Face involves an after-washing, rinsing-like process with a warm damp cloth.

Clear and dense, Fancy Face works by lifting out the dirt from dry skin. Lighter than other cleansing oil, it doesn’t clog pores nor irritate eyes. This cleansing oil also removes dead skin, leaving the complexion smooth and hydrated. AND smells amazing. Without the need for double-cleansing, you will reduce breakouts, achieving a plump and glowing complexion in weeks. The ideal companion for exposed or congested skin, Fancy Face is an inclusive, no-fuss, first-step beauty routine that cleans your skin without unpleasant consequences. In short, Fancy Face does what it says and when I am out of cleansing oil, I’d consider a full-size purchase.

Dr. Hauschka Melissa Day Cream

I got this Melissa Day Cream sample, from Dr Hauschka, in the I Am Co box a while ago. Targeted for lightly sensitive, combination skins, this treatment is meant to naturally balance completion, regulate oils, nourish the derm, and calm redness daily. However, its combination of potent plant oils makes this creme valuable for a broader range of completion and conditions, such as rosacea, dryness or shiness.

The star ingredient is Melissa, also known as Lemon balm. A gentle yet potent antibacterial and antifungal herbaceous plant, Melissa oil helps clear the skin, reducing breakout and rosacea signs. Melissa Day Cream is light, smells fresh, mattifies the completion and seats well under makeup—everything we expect from a morning moisturizer. This Day Cream will be the perfect ally to rebalance your skin.

Aesop Redemption Body Scrub

Difficult to recall how we got this Aesop Redemption body scrub sample in the first place, but I remember that from there, it became a favourite of Tracey. However, it took me much longer to try and sense the benefits of this scrub. Probably a bit of laziness here. However, since I got annoyed by some ingrown hair on my legs, I finally gave it a go.

First, I loved the smell, a blend of light woody, fresh forest aroma from the mix of Pine, Cedarwood, Clove and Sage leaves oils. Then, the Pumice and Bamboo stem scrub—fine, easy and fast to apply, gliding onto the skin and rinsing well. The result on my legs? A soft, polished skin. The overall experience was pleasant, as we can expect with anything Aesop. Would I buy the full-size product? I would consider it.

Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay

Trace received this from a Mecca Beauty Loop box and gave it to me. I like face masks, so this Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay sample was an excellent opportunity to try something new. Generally speaking, a pink clay mask is a good idea for my normal completion. On paper, this one is also suitable for sensitive, oily or combination skin. It will provide assistance in cleansing, clearing and smoothing the derm, removing excess sebum or reducing temporary inflammation.

The mixture of mineral clays, Aloe Vera leaf juice, Witch Hazel Kelp and Vitamin A give its detoxifying and astringent powers to Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay. This face mask also gently exfoliates, invigorates. Kakadu Plum, high in Vitamin C, helps in boosting radiance. I always love a product doing more than one thing.

Instructions said to leave on for 10 minutes. A fast application is always a bonus. Was it easy to remove? A thin layer will go away with a warm cloth or running water. Did my skin feel soft and smooth after use? I say yes, with a tightening feel, meaning something happened to the skin. An ally for those dull days, I will purchase Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay to complement my Youth to The People Superfood Skin Reset mask.

Sans [ceuticals] Activator 7 Body, Hair + Face Oil

This sample I received through Little Bird Organics, the Sans [ceuticals] Discovery Kit, was a gift with purchase. I took the photos and kept the Kit, eventually purchasing the Bio Active Body Exfoliant and the Lip Aid. BUT my next purchase will be the Activator 7 Oil. I have used a lot of body oils, as I prefer them to lotions—but this is the first one I’ve been able to use on my body, face AND hair.

One major ingredient is Olive Fruit Oil which is packed with antioxidants, Vitamins A, E and K, so it's very anti-inflammatory. Jojoba, Evening Primrose and Meadowfoam Oils, botanical seed extracts, vitamins, and fatty acids are married with squalene [derived from olives, not sharks], delivering an unparalleled dose of deep hydration. Sans recommends Activator 7 for stretch marks, scars, dermatitis, eczema, dry skin, acne and sun damage, so it targets a multitude of issues. I’m always looking for body oils that absorb well, smell fantastic, and are made with super-good ingredients. Activator 7 is precisely that, and I’m so into it—this one I will purchase.

Youth to the People Kale + Green Tea Spinach Vitamins Superfood Cleanser

It turned out that when I ordered the Resurfacing Energy Facial Exfoliator—I had been contemplating purchasing the Superfood Cleanser, this was the free sample. So here we are. My approach to skincare begins within, and I eat a lot of Kale so I was immediately attracted to this cleanser because it contains Kale in addition to Spinach, Green Tea, Alfalfa — this one smells herbaceous. There's also Vitamins C, E, K and loads of cold-pressed antioxidants to purify your city skin from the toxins and stress of modern life.

I read somewhere that Kale, Spinach and Green Tea were significant parts of the founders' diets and so naturally became a big part of the Youth To The People line. Greens one hundred per cent should be the foundation of our diets, so why not extend this approach to skincare? Cleanser for me lives in the shower — it's more efficient. Your face is wet already. Dispense into your palm and lather up, massaging into your face and neck. Take your time. You're activating the cold-pressed antioxidants. Rinse off. My skin has been clear for months now, so, at this point, I'm all about keeping it that way. Regime and diet consistency is vital for me, and I think if you feel vibrant on the inside, then that's the energy you'll carry forward.

Bangn Body Firming Lotion

Another Mecca Beauty Loop sample. I was impressed that even their sample tubes are aluminium—100% recyclable with BPA free lining, the cap is also recyclable. This antioxidant supercharged botanical formula contains Shea Butter, Pineapple Fruit Oil and Green Coffee Bean Extract from Byron Bay to reduce the appearance of unwanted dimples and breakouts, increase skin circulation, collagen production, brighten, hydrate, firm and tighten skin.

The idea is that you would treat your body like your face with this tube. So not surprisingly, it is suggested that we can also use it as a primer. You use it everywhere, hands, wherever skin is. I think it needs to be said that the size tube for a body lotion is insufficient. I could do a full leg, perhaps.

I use a lot of cuticle oil and hand cream, which is vital because it’s winter and we’re using hand sanitiser all the time [I do for the bus anyway]. So I bring that little tube of Firming Lotion with me everywhere. It isn’t sticky, and I can just put it on and continue whatever I’m doing, and it makes my hands feel so maintained. I’m still going through a tube of Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm, but would I buy this as well? Yes.

Malin + Goetz Vitamin E Face Moisturiser

I'm back to slathering my face in Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream as of late, but this Face Moisturiser sample provided me with a week's worth of applications and deep hydration. The hero ingredient is Vitamin E, which possesses superior antioxidant activity and protects the skin from ultraviolet light, pollution and other elements that produce free radicals which damage skin—breaking down collagen and elastin, causing premature ageing. All unwanted outcomes of living life.

Anti-inflammatory Chamomile Oil and fatty acids, which are highly restorative, balance water and fats in the skin's hydrolipidic film. Sodium Hyaluronate—which is essentially a water-soluble salt form of Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin B5 bind water to the skin, enhancing water retention encouraging deeper hydration [what we all need during the colder months].

And THE ABSORPTION, it's more serum than cream, so you save a few moments of facial massage before applying sunscreen. It makes life less complicated. Another multi-tasking formula, if I buy the full-size version, I'll share it with my boyfriend [since we're in a committed relationship]—it doubles as an aftershave balm.

Everything we create is an effort to participate in a culture shift. All products featured are independently selected and curated by the authors, and we only feature items we use or would use ourselves that align with our values. As part of our business model, we do work with affiliates such as Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases if you decide to purchase through our links. The price would be the same to you either way, but if you find value in our work, then these affiliate links are a way to support it. We only recommend brands, makers and products we use — that we support. Transparency is important to us, so if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

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