What happened when I religiously followed a Kiehl's skincare regimen for 28 days
I recently went on a trip abroad, and while my skin was totally fine during my travels, all hell broke loose when I arrived back in Manila. My skin suddenly became a flaky mess after days of cold and airplane conditions, and my period arrived and brought hormonal acne with it. I routinely get post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), so my skin pretty much went from flat and somewhat even-toned, to dry and dotted. Nice one.
The Kiehl’s Let Us Change Your Skin Challenge arrived just in time for my recovery phase. The challenge was simple: let the Kiehl’s skincare expert check on my skin and follow the recommended regimen based on my skin’s needs. I had to use the products for 28 days straight (as this is the amount of time when cell production and replacement happens) both in the morning and at night. My skin was tested to be oily and dehydrated whereas before, it was just combination-oily. Oof. I was instructed just use the same cleanser and toner regularly (and I don’t use Kiehl’s for these categories), so I reviewed the following Kiehl’s products in the regimen: spot lightener, anti-oxidant, oil, moisturizer, eye cream, and sunscreen. Here’s what my routine looked like:
Makeup remover (PM): Muji Mild Oil Cleanser
Not too thick, non-irritating, emulsifies, and travel-friendly. Great as an intro to oil-cleansing noobs as it gets the day’s gunk off.
Verdict: Will continue to use and can confidently recommend.
Second Cleanser (AM occasionally + PM): In Her Element Low pH Rose Gel Cleanser
As I find a lot of cleansers too stripping, I only really use In Her Element’s cleanser to take away the oil and makeup residue left from the oil cleansing phase. If you have sensitive or incredibly dry or dehydrated skin, switch to this now!
Verdict: Will continue to choose over every other cleanser and can confidently recommend.
Toner (AM occasionally + PM): In Her Element Petal Skin Rose Toning Essence
Very rarely is there any residue left after the second cleanse, but I always tone with a cotton pad just to make sure. This also acts as the first layer of moisture and adds light physical exfoliation that prepares the canvas for the next steps.
Verdict: Will continue to use and can recommend if you’re comfortable with cotton / reusable pads.
Spot lightener (AM +PM): Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution (₱3,200 for 30mL)
I’m generally skeptical of things that promise to lighten spots (although many people attest to the powers of certain ingredients), so I was curious to see what would happen after 56 applications. We’ve previously reviewed the product before but not for this amount of time. I found that Angela’s results were consistent with mine, but you can actually see what we mean through pictures!
At the beginning of the challenge you could visibly see my PIH. While I couldn’t tell that there was anything happening during the process, I was surprised to find a lot of fading! The spots are no longer dark grey, but are now more like a tan. They’re easier to conceal than before, although nothing from the regimen prevents the sprouting of new spots. I am used to this since hormonal acne on the chin appear like clockwork for me. It does contain Alcohol denat., so for those avoiding drying alcohols, beware.
Verdict: Will continue to use and can confidently recommend.
Anti-oxidant (AM): Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate (₱3,900 for 50mL)
My favorite product of the bunch, this serum that contains 12.5% vitamin C is supposed to "improve overall skin texture, tone, and radiance while reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. It provides antioxidant protection and exfoliates to reveal healthier-looking skin.” Using a vitamin C serum is one of my favorite ways to exfoliate, although it works way slower than AHAs and BHAs. So, why are they my favorite? Because every time I use a vitamin C serum, I always experience brightening, plumping, and scar-fading without the scare of over-exfoliation.
The Line-Reducing concentrate is no different and actually more effective (ie, faster and oxidizes slower) than the other vit-Cs I’ve tried (like the dear klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop). It’s clearly a premium option, and the effect backs it up. Something to note: this contains fragrant citrus oils and fragrance ingredients known to irritate skin, but I did not experience any irritation.
My complexion is brighter (but not ashier, like what a tone-up cream would do) and you can see a reduction of the appearance of lines and darkness on the corners of my mouth. I was honestly losing hope that anything could ever lighten the area, and this did the trick!
My skin also looks plumper (I wouldn’t know if it was actually plumper as I have no way to measure this) and glowier, which are hallmarks of a good vit-C. As for the line-reducing part, the lip corner is the only thing I’ve observed since I don’t have a lot of lines to begin with, but 26 is apparently a good time to start the aging gracefully regimen.
Verdict: Will continue to use and recommend to those with the budget to spend on it.
Oil (PM): Midnight Recovery Concentrate (₱2,950 for 30mL)
Ok, this stuff works. Almost too well. At the beginning of the challenge, my number one concern was actually the visible dehydration and flaking when I got home from my trip. After four days of using 4 drops per night, the flakes and dehydration disappeared, leaving no trace.
In the middle of the challenge, my chin got super crunchy, peeling, and irritated due to a reaction to Epiduo (a spot treatment). The Midnight Recovery Concentrate (MRC) once again saved the day, so I would say “recovery” is an apt name for it! While other oils are too thick for me, the MRC is thin enough for this climate but effective enough to do its job.
However! One needs to be very observant of the skin’s state the following day. I found that after some time, the texture of my skin was much smoother and I needed to reduce usage to 1 to 2 drops (from 3 to 4) in order to avoid that too-rich reaction. For those with reactive skin (like me), spots can actually appear when there’s excess oil, or when you use the MRC too much. Also of note: you need to avoid putting this on active pimples as the oils won’t help. This is really a more moisturizing, plumping product, not a texture improver. Again, this formula contains fragrance oils like coriander, lavender, and rosemary that may be irritating, but I personally didn’t experience irritation.
Verdict: Will lessen usage to every other day, or only as needed. Not a necessary purchase for those who already have something nourishing. Acquire a sample before committing.
Moisturizer (AM + PM): Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream (₱1,850 for 50mL)
This one is perfect for those who can’t stand any weight to their moisturizers and won’t mind the alcohol. If you like the texture of Biore sunscreens, you’ll like this one, but let it be known that Alcohol denat. is third on the ingredients list, which can be drying. I didn’t experience this but know that I have to switch to something else if I need more hydration.
It’s really not oily at all and absorbs very well - almost weightless! It also provides a good slip when under foundation before it absorbs, so either way, it layers very well under makeup. I do prefer the Ultra Facial Cream over the Oil-Free Gel Cream most of the time, unless I feel particularly un-fresh and want something super super light.
Verdict: Skip if you’re sensitive and can’t do a patch test or if you’re avoiding drying alcohols. If you can’t stand regular moisturizers or moisturizers with heft, try this.
Eye Cream (PM): Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado (₱1,825 for 14mL)
I really didn’t think eye cream was necessary until I observed my eyelids becoming more crepe-y one day, which sent me into a panic. I found the Creamy Eye Treatment to be nourishing and not too rich that my eye area formed closed comedones. They work well on the lids, don’t migrate into the eye, and can even be used as an additional layer in reviving extremely flaky skin in thinner areas such as the corners of the nose. And yes, my lids became less crepe-y. Still, it’s very thick and over application is so easily done, so I suggest to use a rice grain amount for both eyes.
Verdict: Not a must-have but such a great choice if needed.
Sunscreen (AM): Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF50 PA++++ (P2,100 for 30mL)
I’ve previously raved about this before, and this time is no different. The lightness of the formula really enabled me to adhere to applying everyday and in the correct quantity to include my eyelids, neck, and ears (but, like, not the contours). Nothing new to add, it’s still quite effective, although expensive.
Verdict: If you’re sick and tired of heavy sunscreens and similar options hurt your eyes, check this one out.
Overall, I found the Kiehl’s products to walk the talk, but some ingredients signal caution, like fragrances and alcohols. I’ve accepted that there is no one product that does it all, and it helps to have a regimen to address certain issues. My skin is definitely not the flaky wreck it was before, but I know I don’t strictly have to follow the “skin care expert’s” lineup all the time — it still depends on what my skin needs on a weekly basis.
Kiehl’s is in the middle of luxury and budget skincare, price-wise, and for what it’s worth, I think it is effective for what they claim. Building a habit of taking the time to take care of my skin had some visible improvements. I’m looking forward to more formulations with no fragrance and no alcohol in the future, but so far, no damage has been done.
Have you tried a regimen this strict? How did it work out for you.
Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution
Aqua/Water, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., PEG/PPG/Polybutylene Glycol-8/5/3 Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl Tetrahydropyrantriol, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, PPG-6-Decyltetradeceth-30, Phenoxyethanol, Salicylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Potassium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil/Lavender Oil, Disodium EDTA, Adenosine, Linalool, Butylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Citrus Aurantium Tachibana Peel Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract.
Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate Ingredients:
Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Ascorbic Acid, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Cyclohexasiloxane, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Lauroyl Lysine, Acrylonitrile/Methyl Methacrylate/Vinylidene Chloride Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Adenosine, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Limonene, Isobutane, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Limon Peel Oil/Lemon Peel Oil, Citral, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate.
Midnight Recovery Concentrate Ingredients:
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Squalane, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Oenothera Biennis Oil / Evening Primrose Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis Oil / Jojoba Seed Oil, Coriandrum, Sativum Oil / Coriander Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil / Lavender Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Linalool, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil / Rosemary Leaf Oil, Citronellol, Geraniol, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Cucumis Sativus Extract / Cucumber Fruit Extract, Curcuma Longa Extract / Turmeric Root Extract, Limonene, Citral, Sclareolide, Rosa Spp / Rose Flower Oil, Jasminum Officinale Extract / Jasmine Extract, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil / Sunflower Seed Oil
Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream Ingredients:
Water, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Dimethicone, Isononyl Isononanoate, Carbomer, Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract, Dimethiconol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, Tetrasodium Edta, Tocopheryl Acetate, Menthoxypropanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer.
Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado Ingredients:
Aqua/Water, Butyrospermum Parkii, Butter/Shea Butter, Butylene Glycol, Tridecyl Stearate, Isodecyl Salicylate, PEG-30, Dipolyhydroxystearate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Persea Gratissima Oil/Avocado Oil, Isocetyl Stearoyl Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Dipentaerythrityl, Hexacaprylate/Hexacaprate, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Magnesium Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium PCA, Ozokerite, Methylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Disodium EDTA, Copper PCA, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil/Sunflower Seed Oil, CI 75130/Beta-Carotene, Tocopherol, Citric Acid
Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel Ingredients:
Water, Alcohol, Diisopropyl Sebacate, Isopropyl Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Methyl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Tocopherol, Stearic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Cetyl Alcohol, Palmitic Acid, Styrene/Acrylamide Copolymer (500000 Mw)
Ceteth-10, Caprylyl Glycol, 3-((L-menthyl)Oxy)Propane-1,2-diol, Dextrin Palmitate (Corn; 20000 Mw), Aluminum Hydroxide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate (55000 Mpa.S), Butylene Glycol, Potassium Hydroxide, Peg-8 Laurate, Edetate Disodium Anhydrous, Adenosine, Myristic Acid, Gentiana Lutea Root, Pentylene Glycol, Mentha Piperita, Sheanut, Rosa Gallica Flower, Sorbitol, Moringa Oleifera Seed, Sodium Phosphate, Dibasic, Anhydrous, Citric Acid Monohydrate