Clean at Sephora, a Plant Based Retinol, Water Creams, + More.

Clean Beauty at Sephora

Today’s post (in partnership with Sephora!) is a long one and it’s packed with research so pour yourself some coffee and let’s DIVE IN because we are talking clean beauty and reviews of three products I tried this month and absolutely LOVE.

Clean Beauty at Sephora

Before we dive into the products, I do want to talk a little bit more about Clean Beauty at Sephora. This program was one of the main reasons I wanted to work with Sephora so badly this year and one of the things that makes me so proud to be a member of the Sephora Squad. As you know, I try to stick to a beauty routine that is (at least) 80% clean products. I would like for it to be 100% but I’m only human, and I also like having the freedom to test any and all producs for the blog! I tend to be stricter with products that sit on my skin longer (serums, creams) than I am with products you wash off (body wash, shampoo, face wash). Clean Beauty at Sephora is their curation of products that fall under their clean category. Just look for the green “Clean at Sephora” seal!

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about clean beauty is that it isn’t high-tech or won’t work as well as other products. That’s simply just not the case. There are so many amazing clean beauty companies doing really cool, high-tech things… and they can all be found at Sephora! I’ve personally bookmarked this page – it’s a great way to discover new clean beauty products… three of which I am going to talk about today!

Herbivore Bakuchiol Serum Review

Okay I am SO excited to talk to you about Herbivore’s Bakuchiol Serum. I was bursting with excitement to try this as I use retinol a few times a week. If you pay attention to new ingredients in the beauty space (don’t worry, you don’t have to, that’s what I’m here for!), besides being fun to say, Bakuchiol is getting a LOT of buzz right now as it’s a plant based retinol alternative. It’s actually been around for a long time (traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine) but with clean beauty becoming a priority to more and more people, it’s gotten very popular this year.

What it is:

This particular product is a plant based retinol alternative serum. It has a bouncy, jelly-like consistency and feels so nice going on the skin. It’s pretty thick, so you only need a little bit (this took me a few tries as I tend to go with a more is more approach. It got a little sticky when I used too much.)

How it works:

Bakuchiol is derived from the Ayurvedic Babchi plant and functions similar to retinol (but gentler so it’s great for sensitive skin… you can actually use this every night if you’d like – with traditional retinol I recommend only 2-3x a week.) Besides Bakuchiol, this serum also contains PHAs (polyhydroxy acides) to gently exfoliate, and tremelia (a superfood mushroom to hydrate and plump). A fun fact about the tremelia mushroom: it actually can hold up to  500 times its weight in water, meaning that it not only helps to hydrate skin but also RETAINS moisture exceptionally well.

How to use it:

Smooth on 3-8 drops (I use 3-4) all over face (avoid eye area), neck, and chest. You can use it during the day (I only use at night) but if you do, please use SPF!!!

Herbivore Bakuchiol Serum Review

How is Bakuchiol different from retinol?

Bakuchiol is different from retinol first in that it’s entirely plant based. It’s also super moisturizing. With traditional retinol, I let it sink in a few minutes and then apply an intense moisturizer (otherwise my skin gets really dry). With Bakuchiol I use a lighter moisturizer afterward as the serum is already so hydrating.

You can actually use it every day, morning and night if you’d like. As with everything and I cannot stress this enough: we all have different skin types so I would advise to start slowly. If you have sensitive skin (or a condition like eczema or rosacea), definitely consult your derm and/or do a patch test first! I also recommend starting doing it 1-2x a week and working up… I personally only use it 2-3x a week.

My take.

I have been testing this for four weeks now (!) and LOVE this product. I would say that it works just as well as a traditional retinol. As noted above I used it 2-3x a week as I have my other products I like to use at night. I find it’s really great with both refining texture (rough spots + lines) and providing deep hydration. I can’t stress again that less is more. In the beginning I was using too much product and it got sticky/greasy which wasn’t good. So use less and the bottle will last you longer, too! It’s also a great value at $54. Most retinol serums are $100+! All you need are a few drops. Pat it on, allow to sink in (I brush my teeth) and then apply a light moisturizer… which brings me to our next product!

Primera Alpine Berry Water Cream Review

Primera Alpine Berry Water Cream Review

When I started trying out the Primera Alpine Berry Water Cream my biggest question was…

What the heck is a water cream!?

I actually didn’t know but the answer is pretty simple. A water cream (also called a gel moisturizer) is much more lightweight than a traditional moisturizer but just as effective (and they’re better for summer!). The best way to think about it is that all moisturizers have some sort of base. Usually it’s oil but in the case of a water cream, it’s… you guessed it… water! Water creams tend to be less greasy than traditional moisturizers.

My take:

I really like this cream. I was a little hesitant about using a water cream for dry skin, but this particular moisturizer is SUPER hydrating as it’s also packed with coconut-derived oil and artemisia extract (which helps strengthen the moisture barrier). It left my skin insanely dewy and hydrated. Experts recommend applying it while your skin is still slightly damp. I use this cream after retinol and vitamin C at night, and on it’s own in the morning.

Sephora's C+E Super Serum Review

Sephora’s C+E Super Serum Review

We saved the best one for last! Okay I don’t know about that but you guys have been blowing up my DM’s about Sephora’s new clean collection / asking if I’d tried it, etc etc! And for good reason – the new collection from Sephora has gotten sooo much buzz. There are 8 items in the collection and they’re all under $20! Yes seriously – under $20!

Of course, I was most excited to try the Sephora Collection C+E Super Serum as I’m a big fan of vitamin C as an ingredient. For brightening and firming there is nothing better than vitamin C.

What it does:

This is a vitamin C serum for GLOW and protection from the elements as well as peptides to tighten the look of skin. It contains 97% ingredients from natural origin. It’s great for all skin types (oily, combination, dry, etc).

My take:

This is an awesome product (and I can’t believe the price). It reminds me quite a bit of another famous C+ E serum but we aren’t going to name any names. It leaves skin looking brighter, glowing, and (the best part!) FIRMER. I use it in the morning. There’s been a lot of debate here for when to use vitamin C and it varies by product, but this one is for morning. It brightens, tightens the look of skin, and protects.

Fun fact: even the packaging is “clean!” The bottle is made from 100% recyclable glass, the cardboard comes from sustainably managed forests, and it’s printed with vegetable ink!

Clean at Sephora, a Plant Based Retinol, Water Creams, + More. Grace Atwood is sharing a review about Clean Beauty at Sephora Grace Atwood is sharing a review about Clean Beauty at Sephora Clean Beauty at Sephora Clean Beauty at Sephora, a Plant Based Retinol, Water Creams, + More.

created in partnership with Sephora // photography by Carter Fish.

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  1. Thanks for the review! I’m actually on the lookout for my first retinol product. Just in time. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    7.25.19 Reply
  2. Bethany:

    The Sephora Vitamin C serum is one of my favorite new products! I was having issues with a couple dry, flaky spots on my face when I bought this and it’s made a HUGE difference. I use it a few times a week in the morning before my normal moisturizer.

    7.25.19 Reply
  3. Emily Lew:

    Hi Grace! Love this post. When using the Vitamin C in the morning, does makeup sit well over it? Or spf? Thanks! 🙂

    7.25.19 Reply
    • Yep! This goes on after cleansing and before your moisturizer – shouldn’t make a difference with anything that goes on top of it.

      7.25.19 Reply
  4. Christine:

    Love this Grace! Always looking for recommendations and I love how you’re always honest and you have tried the products long enough to have reliable reviews! I just ordered the Bakuchiol! Can’t wait to try it out!

    7.25.19 Reply
  5. Ohhhh this is great! I love using clean, plant-based beauty, especially skin-care, but the price tag is a can be high from some brands. I’m glad to see that Sephora offer a more affordable option.

    7.25.19 Reply
  6. Lisa:

    Love this! I have been so intrigued by the Sephora brand products, so this is great, thank you!

    7.25.19 Reply
  7. Brianna Rooney:

    I was one of those asking if you’ve tried! This is so helpful.

    Question – for the C+E serum, do you find it drying at all? The Kiehls Vitamin C wasn’t for me but I know others love it!

    7.25.19 Reply
    • Not at all! Just make sure you use it before moisturizer and not as the only step. (The first time I ever tried vit C years ago, I didn’t put moisturizer on afterward and that did not go so well for me!!)

      7.25.19 Reply
  8. Jo:

    Hey Grace! I liked your clean fake tan stories on Instagram yesterday but I’m so curious about what makes a fake tan “clean”. I love fake tan but have been reading lately about how DHA is pretty terrible and is linked to premature skin aging, and it’s found in almost all fake tanners (including the ones you called out as “clean”). Do you worry about the aging effects of DHA/fake tan?

    7.25.19 Reply
    • Hey Jo, I clearly need to do more research re: self-tanning. My understanding is that these products pass Sephora’s clean beauty standards and are okay to use. Both products use naturally derived DHA (Coola’s is from sugar beets, I am not sure what Isle of Paradise uses but they use 100% organic ingredients). My hunch that it’s probably better but not great. Probably the best option if you want to be tan. (as opposed to the sun or self-tanners that are packed with other chemicals).

      7.25.19 Reply
      • Jo:

        Thanks for the reply! It’s so frustrating trying to find something that’s “clean” and then finding out it’s harmful in other ways. I was so excited to find a tanner with natural DHA (the chemistry’s glow oil) but then I read this article which says that even natural DHA from have the same effect on aging skin:

        Here’s the article if you’re interested in learning more!

        7.25.19 Reply
        • Thanks so much for sharing. It’s incredibly frustrating!!!!

          Just finished reading the article – it’s fascinating, and I love how they break down exactly what happens. I also like that they give tips for what to do (antioxidants, etc) if you still can’t help yourself – much more realistic IMO. Am also going to give the Isle of Paradise Body bronzer a try – it feels like so much work for something that just washes off, but I’m still intrigued.

          I guess for me in the scheme of things, I feel better when I’m tan. (It’s crazy how yesterday, having a little self tanner on made me feel so much prettier. It makes such a big difference for me personally!!) And I don’t want to get a real tan (wrinkles!) or use a self-tanner that’s packed with chemicals. So using an organic one with naturally derived DHA is my best bet.

          7.25.19 Reply
  9. cy:

    These all look great! I just finished my Mad Hippie C serum and am now trying the Beauty-pie Superactive capsules. So far I really like them. They are creamy and of course individually packaged, so they say the C is more potent that way. I’ll let you know. I’m going to try the Sephora one next since you highly recommend it. The capsules are only a months worth. I love all the Herbivore products I’ve tried. Looks like I’m going to have to have a Sephora birthday shop! ( next week). Thanks for being our guinea pig Grace 🙂

    7.25.19 Reply
  10. They all seem amazing! Clean beauty has gotten very known recently and I feel like a fool for not having tried it out yet. I’ll definitely look into it, I’m super curious.

    7.25.19 Reply
  11. Kelsey Corinne Jones:

    If a product is part of the “Clean at Sephora” section, is it safe to use during pregnancy? Or do you need to assess each product individually?

    7.25.19 Reply
    • I would ask your doctor – can’t be too careful!

      7.25.19 Reply
    • Kelly:

      Vitamin C, yes, but salicylic is a no. Retin-A is a big no. You can do lactic acid – there’s a Sunday Riley one that pregnancy safe.

      7.26.19 Reply
  12. Jen:

    Perfect timing in your review Grace. I have been looking for a clean Vitamin C serum! Ordered mine today! Thank you. Thank you.

    7.25.19 Reply
  13. Jessica Camerata:

    Been hearing so many things about plant based retinol. So interesting!

    xo Jessica
    My Style Vita

    7.25.19 Reply
  14. Bianca Napoles:

    “Literally bursting with excitement”?! I hope they put you back together well and suffered no complications from being in numerous pieces! Or did a part of your body split open? Either way, it’s too bad you “literally” burst open. Painfull!

    7.25.19 Reply
  15. jen:

    When you test products, do you hold all other product use?

    7.25.19 Reply
    • Hey Jen,
      I’ve talked about my testing process at length here before.
      I try to test one product at a time and keep my routine consistent. It does vary though. For these particular products, I swapped the Bakuchiol out with my usual retinol that I use 2-3x a week (Sunday Riley) to see how it measured up. And I used the Primera water cream afterward instead of other moisturizers that I use post serum/retinol (e.g. Skin Food). I used the CE Serum in the morning with the Primera; every other day (so that I could still use Dr Bader every day).

      7.26.19 Reply
  16. michelle:

    Hi Grace! How long did the Herbivore bakuchiol last you? I had their prism oil, and I loved it, but it turned literally brown within a couple months of opening. A bunch of other reviews online said the same thing happened to them. I’ve been scared to pull the trigger on any of their other products since I’m just not sure they last long enough to justify the cost. I was only like 1/4 of the way through the bottle of Prism :(.

    7.25.19 Reply
    • I’ve had it for about 6 weeks and it’s been fine!
      FWIW I have a lot of Herbivore products and that’s never happened to me with any of them!

      7.26.19 Reply
  17. I’m I a ding-a-ling or is there a way to get back to Sephora’s clean page without clicking through your website? Before you get upset I WILL purchase through you website now but how do I get back here in the future?


    7.25.19 Reply
    • You know, I had a hard time finding it too! You can always copy the link and bookmark it?

      7.26.19 Reply
  18. Elizabeth:

    Thanks for sharing! Do you use the Sephora C+E serum under Dr. Bader?

    7.26.19 Reply
  19. Lisa Autumn:

    I am on the hunt for a new retinol product! Thank you!

    x Lisa |

    7.27.19 Reply
  20. Alexandra:

    Would you say the C+E serum is equivalent to sunday riley’s CEO serum? Thank you so much for the time & effort you put into every post!!

    7.28.19 Reply
    • I honestly haven’t used Sunday Riley CEO enough to make the comparison! I’d compare it more to Skinceuticals CE Ferulic!

      7.28.19 Reply
  21. Sarah:

    I have the Sephora Vitamin C serum and absolutely love it!

    Definitely going to try the water moisturizer – I have been on the lookout for something lighter for summer. This Texas heat & humidity is killing me! Ha!

    7.29.19 Reply
  22. Grace P Beck:

    How do you think the HERBIVORE BAKUCHIOL SERUM compares to the Beauty Counter Counter Time serum? I am pregnant and need to use a retinol alternative.

    8.13.19 Reply
  23. Lauren:

    Thanks for the recommendations, Grace! I’m a mom, and I know retinol is supposed to be avoided during pregnancy and nursing. I was so excited to learn about Bakuchiol, first on BOP podcast and then more on your blog. According to the Herbivore website, they say it’s okay for pregnant and nursing moms. I just purchased and can’t wait to try it!

    9.2.19 Reply
    • Ah this makes me so happy to hear!!! Yes it’s supposed to be totally fine for that!

      9.3.19 Reply
  24. Gail Heller:

    Please help me.
    I need a cleanser that will not leave my eyes puffy, maybe a gel?
    I had my eyes done twenty years ago but they are coming back and make me look tired.
    I have tried so many I just give them away and it’s a costly exercise.
    Please help me.

    9.17.19 Reply
  25. Maegan Evans Whitehurst:

    Would you recommend this serum
    For combo to semi oily gals? And can someone with combo/ oily use this vit c also?

    9.23.19 Reply