I Tried These Skin Care Samples on Vacation and Here’s What I Found

beauty discoveries from my vacation


When I travel, I take the opportunity to try out some of the sample-size products from my ever growing stash. After all, I like to travel light, so only the rare can’t-live-without-it full-sized product will every make it into my carryon bag. This gives me an opportunity to try some new products that I normally wouldn’t fit into my everyday beauty regimen. And my recent trip to Spain and Morocco revealed some surprising new beauty finds that I’ll be checking out in full size soon.


beauty discoveries from my vacation



It takes a lot for a face cream moisturizer to impress me. Most are OK; few are amazing. So I generally rely on my essences and serums to really do the heavy anti-aging lifting. When I got a sample of Sunday Riley Tidal Water Cream, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, Sunday Riley is one of those trendy skin care brands that I was curious about but wondered whether it was all hype. But as soon as that first dollop of blue hit my epidermis, I was in love. Silky but not slippery, hydrating but not oily. Comforting but not suffocating. Not only does it contain two forms of hyaluronic acid, it’s got alpha-arbutin to fight hyperpigmentation. I only have a sample size of the water cream so I can’t speak to its brightening properties, but even at $65, I’m seriously considering buying this moisturizer (as soon as I’m done with my current stash).


Water, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Tamarindus Indica (Tamarind) Seed Gum, Ethyl Macadamiate, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (and) Lecithin, Isododecane, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol Crosspolymer, Lauryl Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Strelitzia Nicolai (Bird of Paradise flower) Seed Aril Extract, Alpha-Arbutin, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) seed extract, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Allantoin, Papain and Carbome 1, 2-Hexanediol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Algin, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Leaf Extract (and) Melia Azadirachta Flower (Neem) Extract (and) Amino Esters-1 (and) Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract (and) Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract (and) Lawsonia Inermis Extract (and) Ocimum Sanctum Leaf (Holy Basil) Extract, Pearl Powder, Fragrance, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Titanium Dioxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.



Tigergrass is having a serious moment right now. Otherwise known as Gotu Kola or Centella asiatica extract, COSRx features the ingredient in some of their anti-acne ampoules, Dr. Jart+ just released their Cicapair line, and La Roche-Posay’s Cicaplast Baume B5 includes madecassoside, a bioactive compound of Centella asiatica extract. Tigergrass, which got its name because wounded tigers in Asia would roll in the grass to help heal itself, helps heal wounds, burns, and psoriasis by promoting fibroblast proliferation and increasing the synthesis of collagen. Research has also shown that Centella asiatica can be used in the treatment of photoaging skin and even cellulite.

The MadeCera cream is a rich cream that absorbs quickly without a greasy after-feel. I used it on the plane — on my hands, my cheeks, wherever I needed hardcore moisturization. Made with a high concentration of naturally fermented ceramide, which is better absorbed by the skin than synthetic ceramides, and madecassoside of Centella extract, the cream was shown in clinical tests to strengthen the skin barrier by improving damaged skin and increase skin moisturization.


Aqua, Glycerine, Butylene, Glycol, Betaine, Niacinamide 1, 2-Hexanediol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, C14-28 Alkyl Acid, Stearyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Arachidyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Cyclopentasiloxane, Diisostearyl Malate, Ceramide 3, PEG-10 Rapeseed Sterol, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycereth-20, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycosyl Trehalose, Panthenol, PEG-100 Stearate, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Lauryl PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Lanolin, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Squalane, Polysorbate 60, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum, Asiaticoside, Madecassic Acid, Asiatic Acid, Adenosine, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Madecassoside, Fragrance


Éminence Citrus & Kate Potent C+E Serum

Despite its strong, candy-orange scent, this 16% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate) and vitamin E serum was a good alternative (though not quite dupe) to my can’t-live-without-it Skinceuticals C E Ferulic (which I had to live without for 16 days because it comes in a glass bottle). To stabilize the notoriously unstable vitamin C, it’s got botanically sourced ferulic acid and comes in a dark, if not opaque, bottle.

The ingredient list is impressive as well — short and full of only good stuff:

Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid, Sodium, Ascorbyl Phosphate), Vitamin E, Botanical Ferulic Acid, Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, Broccoli Sprouts), Lemon, Grapefruit, Avocado, Botanical Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid.

The serum won Best Vitamin C Serum, Aestheticians’ Choice Awards 2016, Dermascope 2016, as well as winner of the Serum category, Natural Beauty Awards, Nature & Health, 2016. Best of all, Éminence is a brand dedicated to natural and organic ingredients, as well as green practices, so for those of you who are trying to minimize chemicals and other baddies, this is probably your best bet. It’s also a bit more affordable than Skinceuticals ($110 vs. $163 — though I always buy mine at Dermstore.com when they have a 20% off Skinceuticals sale).


beauty discoveries from my vacation


INUF Hydration B5 Balancing Serum

It’s no wonder this hyaluronic acid serum is so good — I almost had a heart attack when I saw the price: $910!! [Update: Heart attack averted. The $910 price is actually in Hong Kong dollars. That means it’s about $117 in U.S. dollars. Now that’s more like it!] 

That’s good news because it’s an impressive serum to consider. First, it’s oxygen-infused to drive actives deep into the skin and deactivate anaerobic bacteria that cause acne inflammation. The 5-ingredient list is also impressive:

Deionized Water, Hyaluronic Acid, Pantothenic Acid, Oxygen Molecules, Sorbic Acid.

I have to say, it’s one of the best hyaluronic acid serums I’ve ever tried. It immediately hydrates and keeps hydrating all day. That midday tightness in my skin is eviscerated starting from Day 1. My skin feels comfortable, hydrated, and cushiony.


Murad Clarifying Cleanser

Encapsulated salicylic acid is the star in this cleanser (which means even after rinsing, it releases pore penetrating BHA to fight acne all day). Its gel formula helped keep my travel acne at bay, all without drying out my increasingly dry skin.


Active Ingredient: Salicylic Acid 1.5%

Other Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Methyl Gluceth-20, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Butylene Glycol, Cimicifuga Racemosa Root Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Silver Citrate, Menthol, PEG-150 Distearate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch Octenylsuccinate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Polysorbate 80, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Chlorphenesin, Methylisothiazolinone, Limonene*, Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Leaf Oil, Cymbopogon Nardus (Citronella) Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Fragrance (Parfum)


LiftLab Skin Regeneration Lift + Moisturize

This was a surprising find because nowhere on its tube does this moisturizer suggest that this was a good pick for my oily T-zone. (I found out after researching online.) The gel cream feels lightweight, hydrates without clogging pores, and helps cell turnover with peptides. It also contains their patented Cell Protection Protein, essentially a protein from fish plasma, discovered in the Arctic which helps protect sea life from the harsh environment.

liftlab ingredients

The downside? It’s not cheap at $120, and I have more affordable options for my T-zone, so I won’t be buying.

Have you ever loved a sample but would only buy it if you won the Lottery? I’d love to know!

6 thoughts on “I Tried These Skin Care Samples on Vacation and Here’s What I Found

  1. Olive says:

    Hey hi thanks very much for your lovely review on our B5 Balancing Serum. The $910 is actually in HK dollar because we are from Hong Kong. It is around US$117 for a 30mle. Cheers 🙂


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