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Smackdown Updates V: Philosophy’s Hope in a Bottle Cage Match

By Amalah

hopeinabottle.jpgYou know, sometimes when I’m writing specific product-related entries here, I annoy myself with my complete inability to write a declarative sentence. I tend to grey-area things up with a lot of wishy-washy language, since I’m hesitant to make bold claims about something being the Best! Product! Ever!, even if I really think that.
Today, let me share a couple testimonials that probably explain WHY I get like that sometimes better than I could. If I were totally gross and immature, I’d call it 2 Girls, 1 Moisturizer. But luckily I am way above that sort of humor. Oh, wait.
This isn’t so much of a question to be posted to your website but more just a thank you for introducing me to the Philosophy range! Ever since I went off the pill my skin went nuts and nothing was working. I’d always been curious about Philosophy but there’s nowhere that sells it where I live so I knew I’d have to mail order and that kind’ve deterred me. But still your posts kept referring back to it so I bit the bullet and thought it must be good and started off with Hope in a Jar and Purity Made Simple.
The life of my skin will always be marked by this moment…and referred to as BP and AP (before and after philosophy!) I now rarely get any kind of zits and I’m loving the products…I’ve sinced branched out to Hope in a Bottle every second night and this has taken things to a whole new level yet again. I can’t believe that I can go through my period (and the week leading up to it) and my skin is not involved in an all out civil war.
So in short – you rock for gently pushing me over the line towards better skin and I can see myself sticking with this range for a long time to come. And also…mail order isn’t such a bad thing…its nice to look forward to a package arriving on my desk at work especially when it always includes bonus samples of lots of other little product samples!
Victoria, Australia

Hooray for success stories! But then, just when you thought it was safe to wander into the Philosophy aisle again…
Hi Amy!
I submitted a question last year on the necessity of eye cream, and as per your advice, I invested in a tube of Hope in a Tube, which I ADORE. Since I suffer from what Philosophy would call “congested” skin and what I call “minor but obnoxious adult acne,” I decided to get me my eye cream as part of the Philosophy set for congested skin. So, LOVE Hope in a Tube, LOVE Purity Made Simple. But the serum? Not my cuppa tea, for no particular reason other than I couldn’t quite figure out what it was supposed to be doing for me. And Hope in a Bottle? Pretty underwhelmed, to be honest.
First, the smell bothers me. But knowing that smells and their potential to bug people varies a LOT from person to person, I just wrote it off as being a mismatch.
But more importantly, it made my acne significantly WORSE. Instead of having a smattering of blackheads, whiteheads and 2-3 red pimples, I started getting whiteheads ALL OVER in large patches. Seriously, it’s like the stuff closes my pores instead of opening them. The invasion of the whiteheads was a lot more unsightly than what I had had before and the bumpy feeling on my face very annoying. After a month, I switched to a moisturizer for oily/combination skin from Payot, and my skin went back to “normal,” maybe even a little better than before my experiment with Hope in a Bottle. Given how many good reviews Hope in a Bottle gets, I’m sure it’s a wonderful product for a lot of people. But for me, it was pretty obviously The Wrong Moisturizer. So it seems possible to me that there might be other readers out there with congested skin who have a similar incompatibility with the moisturizer. And if there are, I’d like to tell them that they’re not alone, but there probably IS a moisturizer out there somewhere that will meet their needs.
Which is what I found in Payot’s Creme Purifiante. Which all just underscores what you’ve said yourself many times on the Smackdown: that everyone needs to find the moisturizer that’s right for their skin. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, even if our skin types sound alike.
Thanks for all the advice!!
PS I forgot to mention something: not wanting to feel like I threw my money away on a failed experiment, I’ve been using my leftover Hope in a Bottle on my legs between waxings to help ward off the ingrown hairs. And lo! It works! So, closes facial pores, opens pores on legs. Who knew?

Ta-da! The other side of the skincare coin. It’s like how I always worry that I’m insulting someone personally by admitting that I hate hate hate Bare Minerals, when really, duh. We’re all different and there are a bazillion variations on “congested” skin and “combination” skin and “blackhead pore-pocked temper-tantrum” skin. All of which you could use to describe my skin.
I recently got a sample of Cosmedicine’s Medi-Matte Oil Control Lotion with SPF 20 at Sephora, and the lady behind the register couldn’t stop raving about. So great for oily skin! Shrinks up your pores! Banishes shine! All this and SPF! (Which Hope in a Bottle lacks.) I was pretty jazzed to try it, if only to have SOME OTHER MOISTURIZER to talk about here.
Well. To use Stephanie’s word…”underwhelmed” would be about right. The texture was classic moisturizer-and-SPF-in one. Thick, kind of greasy, didn’t smear on or in very easily. I spent extra time trying to blend it in, but when I went to apply my foundation I discovered dry, un-moisturized patches. (I have the same problem with Philosophy’s new Hope in a Jar with SPF, by the way, although I’ve only played with it at the store since I have PLENTY of the regular stuff at home. I just don’t think I’m a combo person.) My pores remained very visible and I saw none of the skin-clearing oompff I get from Hope in a Bottle. And the SPF left me shiny. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t break out terribly, I just…didn’t love it. And for $42 a bottle, I want the clouds to part and the angels to sing, like they did the day I discovered Hope in a Bottle.
I gave it about two weeks and then switched back. (I use Hope in a Bottle only occasionally, by the way. Once every other day or so. When my skin was really icky, I used it more, but now that it’s relatively clear and stable I mostly use Hope in a Jar.)
Oh! And since we’re on the subject of oil and shine control…I’ve been trying Philosophy’s Never Let Them See You Shine Cleanser and have to say that I like it pretty darn much. My “pregnancy glow” has been getting a TAD much lately, so I started using this in the morning instead of Purity. (I use Purity at night, since it’s better for removing makeup.) The smell and color kind of takes me back to my Noxema days, but the cleanser itself is EXTREMELY gentle and non-bracing — it’s not a scrub or packed with tons of harsh oil-stripping ingredients.
Long-time readers know I’m very leery of loading up with the oil-control stuff and prefer more balancing, “for all skin types” kind of products, but hey, even my own skin will hand me the occasional curveball. Thumbs up for Philosophy once again! Unless you hate Philosophy! Then boo!

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Jezer

    July 28, 2008 at 8:02 am

    I’m another Philosophy convert–love the Hope in a Jar and LUHVE-oh-my-Lord-L-O-V-E Purity. I like the eye cream (when I remember to use it!), but didn’t really “get” what the serum was supposed to be doing for me.
    So, Hope in a Bottle is *more* moisturizing than HIAJ? For some reason I thought it’d be lighter.
    Anyway (and here’s the actual point of this whole comment, aside from casting my vote for “Love Philosophy”), I just saw an ad in a magazine for Hope in a Jar with sunscreen! World peace can’t be far behind.

  • Ginnie

    July 28, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Ditto to what Stephanie said about the Hope products. Love the Hope in a Tube and can’t stand the smell of Hope in a Bottle. But since I’ve laid out the cash for it, I’ll use every last drop of it.

  • Beeeee

    July 28, 2008 at 9:46 am

    OH! I had Stephanie’s EXACT SAME problem with the Philosophy products. Whiteheads, mainly on my chin area, but really bad regardless. However, I wasn’t smart about it and it took me forever to make the connection that it was the Philosophy products. Anyway, back to Oil of Olay, which works just fine. I wish there was something out there that would do for my skin what Philosophy does for other people’s skin. If there is – let me know!

  • Julia

    July 28, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I converted to Philosophy products last fall and have been really happy with Purity (just scored some huge bottles at a great price at the summer Nordstrom sale!) and happy with hope in a jar too. It doesn’t make me break out, which is pretty much the biggest thing I ask for in a moisturizer! I’ve been using the new HIAJ with SPF for almost a month now and I’m really happy with it. I hadn’t been wearing any SPF on my face before because my face did break out if I put on a layer of moisturizer, a layer of sunscreen, and then make-up. So far so good with the HIAJ combo. The first letter writer should be careful though, ordering and receiving products from Sephora is ADDICTIVE! All those free samples, yikes.

  • Jenn

    July 28, 2008 at 10:16 am

    On the flip side… I’ve always had good skin, and for the most part the Philosophy line just gives me zits. I have finally found that using… the exfoliating facewash a couple of times a week is all my skin can handle. The downside is that this means that my face doesn’t get moisturized, sunscreened, or washed almost ever, but doing any of those things–particularly the washing–totally screws it up.

  • pyoiu

    July 28, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I have to cast a “hate Philosophy” vote. Of course, I have completely insane skin that breaks out if I ever deviate from my Cetaphil routine, but Hope in a Bottle gave me terrible terrible cystic acne, worse than I’ve ever had before.

  • Miss Britt

    July 28, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    My medicine cabinet is a healthy mix of Philosophy, Aveda, and Equate. 🙂

  • Jess

    July 28, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I started experimenting with Philosophy products after hearing your rave reviews here, but found them to be not a good match with my skin.
    HOWEVER, my boyfriend now swears by Never Let Them See You Shine (he likes the one with exfoliating scrubbies in it) and I totally see a difference in his skin!! Yay! I steal it from him on those crazy oily days but for me it’s a bit too drying. I’m a delicate flower.

  • Amy in StL

    July 28, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I used to use Oil of Olay Regenerist and it kept my skin clear but I was still shiny in the summer. I recently bought a trial kit of the Cosmedicine line that the MediMatte comes with. My face feels greasy all the time and is not Matte textured at all.
    It’s getting harder to find, but I guess i’ll go back to Apivita’s Aqua Matt Face Cream. It doesn’t seem to make my acne worse or better, but it does wonders for shine. I was tempted to try Philosophy, but none of their products seemed to have SPF and shine control. Like only dark-skinned folks want shine control?!
    Anyone else have any luck finding Mattifying and SPF in one product?

  • polly

    July 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I love love love the Philosophy shower gels, perfumes, and Purity but I had a strong aversion the smell of Hope in Jar, it burned when I put it on my face, and my skin became very angry. Ditto for the eye cream (except no offending odor). I’ve tried lots of fancy moisturizers and the only thing that seems to not break my skin out is Cetaphil – not very glamorous but my tried and true. I’ve had some good luck with Mario Bedescu Control Cream this summer – it’s been taking a lot of the red out of my skin – but I’ll need to get back to a real moisturizer in the winter.

  • Sarah

    July 28, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I had the EXACT SAME negative reaction Stephanie had – but mine was with Hope in a Jar. GOOD GOD THE PIMPLES!!!! I haven’t had such horrible, painful breakouts since I was 16.
    I have since switched to a few differnt Aveeno products and am finding they work absolute wonders for my skin!

  • sha

    July 29, 2008 at 1:10 am

    The bare minerals makeups works great for me — but I am one of those fair-skinned freckly types that needs the evening out of the reddish/pinkish tones and freckles. I have no bad reactions to it, and I like it because it doesn’t have the sticky, thick feeling that I always get with a regular oil-based foundation. I always put my sunscreen on first, and I wonder if that prevents me from absorbing the minerals? But I don’t have particuarly senssitive skin, except for the sunburns.

  • Erin

    July 29, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Amy in STL: I use a mattifying sunscreen from Paula’s Choice. It’s not a miracle worker, but it’s really good for light moisture, SPF 15, and it doesn’t make you greasy. You can only buy it online, though.
    Neutrogena’s Dry Tough sunscreens are also pretty good, but not very moisturizing.
    Also, Paula’s Choice beta hydroxy liquid has been a blessing.

  • Jasmine

    July 30, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I raved over Purity!!! I bought it in US when I went there, just to get it confiscated by the authorities at the airport due to the 100ml rule (god, the irony.) I have the When Hope is not Enough SPF moisturizer, but after using it for a couple of weeks I dropped it because it … practically … melted off … my face … leaving a sort of greasy film. May be the equatorial weather and humidity though. I’m using this Japanese product by SANA (Namerakahonpo Milk Lotion) which moisturizes without grease or shine, and keeps skin perky. However, no SPF (sorry Amy in StL!) Excuse my shameless plugging —
    I’m on a new wave of Japanese products after getting wowed by their arsenal of cosmetic technology, their whitening products and makeup are really top of the line.

  • molly

    July 30, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Tossing in my two cents: you, Amalah, can take full credit for introducing me to the wonders of Philosophy. Since being on Accutane twice, I’d been plagued with the horrible dry, sensitive skin–as soon as it touched water, it was itchy and peely and burny, and no amount of moisturizer would heal. When I bought the Purity wash, I could hardly contain my joy. I use it twice a day, everyday, and no one and nothing will convince me otherwise.
    Hope in a Jar is great too, although not great enough to justify the pricetag for me, especially since I go through it so fast. Now I just use it when I think, “Hmm, will I see that cute boy today? Let’s put this on just in case.” Otherwise, Clinique Dramatically Different all the way.
    I also have an enormous pore problem, but Hope in a Bottle did just what any other pore “solution” did: total facial mayhem. I only used it twice before my face FLAKED THE EFF OUT, getting so inconsolably bad. What fixed it was a trip to Ulta to get the Dermatology Dry Skin Kit. A few days of their moisturizer (heaven sent for super, super dry skin), moisturizing masque, face mist, and cleanser set me right again, all for $30. They have other kits, I’d like to know what you think of them, everyone in Ulta raves about them but I see so few reviews online.
    Anyway that’s what I have to say about Philosophy. All-around strong brand, almost always perfect for my skin, but like anything, just sometimes dead wrong.

  • Julia

    August 1, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I might be a little late to this party, but I have to cast another vote for “Philosophy is no good”. I tried it based on good word of mouth online and I had a similar response to Stephanie, although maybe a little worse: lots of bumps, some whiteheads, even throw in a little cystic-type acne. I quit using it, things got better, then decided to try it again. After two days on the second go-around, I decided it was indeed the Philosophy products. I am still a little astonished something meant for “congested skin” would be so pore-clogging. Such a bummer, and so discouraging to feel like you’ve wasted $70+ as a SAHM on a budget…

  • appelsauce

    August 3, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Hooray! Amalah chose my review of Hope in a Bottle! Like I had written, I ended up using the rest of it on my legs to prevent ingrowns, and it worked pretty well for that. I have now moved on to Payot’s Creme Purifiante moisturizer, and I’m very happy with the results. It hasn’t magically made my acne disappear, but it has made it a lot less unsightly. I’m not sure what it costs in $$, but at 21€, I think it’s even a bit less expensive than Hope in a Bottle. I don’t think Payot is a very well known brand in the US, but I think their stuff is pretty great.

  • amieable

    August 5, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Oh phew. I tried the Philosophy line with the highest hopes and it totally made my skin worse. Like as bad as it was when I was 13. I also started to notice things going downhill once I started with the serum and then it was all a sleigh ride into horrible acne. I kept on using it because everyone I know loves it and I thought I just needed to let it “kick in” but it is just terrible for my skin. Glad to know others out there had a bad experience too. AND I’m glad to know of the shaving legs tip because I also feel bad about the good money I spent on the congested kit.

  • Anita B.

    July 26, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    I have just gotten in to Philosophy’s fun and well marketed line. After finding a small sample jar of Hope in a Bottle at the checkout bin in Sephora I gave it a go. It turned out to be addicting, I think the rich velvety feel when you slather it on at night is something you want to repeat nightly. I love how soft my skin feels every morning. I do have to take a break every few days to use some sort of lesser brand salicylic acid to keep my skin from getting bumpy and during the day it’s less then ideal in a hot climate. I recommend highly using Epicuran lines for facial cleansers although I am intrigued by purity and might try it once my Epicuran is out.
    All in all I have bite into the ” Drink of water for your face” slogan of HIAJ. It rocks.
    Also great is Supernatural- a makeup base/SPF that works a little like Clinique’s poreless mattifier ( I actually use the supernatural in the morning under makeup to set it and hide larger pores – then use the Clinique throughout the day for touchups) This works well for women with larger pores and shine issues… don’t use it if you have acne issues…. i imagine it will clog your pores… but Supernatural is good for normal skin which has larger pores or shine issues….
    Anita R. Bloom