Trying Kiehl’s for the first time

May 8, 2016
Kiehl's purchases
Kiehl’s purchases

It probably shouldn’t have taken me this long to try some Kiehl’s products, but now that I’m in New York City I’ve passed through their flagship store in the East Village at a couple of times and have started to explore product range. Their flagship store is actually their original location that dates back to 1851 (a date that’s proudly proclaimed on all of their product packaging) when it was a pharmacy, and is a really cool place to visit.

I’ve gone in to purchase products a couple of times now, and my husband and I have also taken advantage of the skin consultations to help identify appropriate products and learn about the range.

Kiehl's cleanser, essence, sun protection, and custom serum
Kiehl’s cleanser, essence, sun protection, and custom serum

So far, I’ve purchased the Ultra-Facial Cleanser, the Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence, Super Fluid UV Defense Sunscreen, and an Apothecary Preparations personalized serum, which is something that’s exclusively available at the flagship store.

Super Fluid Mineral Sunscreen
Super Fluid Mineral Sunscreen

And, I actually ended up going back and exchanging the original Super Fluid sunscreen for their Mineral Defense alternative, which uses titanium dioxide instead of chemical sunscreens and is intended for sensitive skin. It’s packaged exactly the same except the colored label is teal instead of orange.

Kiehl's skin analysis product recommendations
Kiehl’s skin analysis product recommendations

Here’s what my group of product recommendations looked like after getting a skin consultation from one of the sales associates. I have combination skin that’s easily stripped and dried out and can sometimes lean on the sensitive side of things. Considering my skin type and the skin concerns we discussed, product recommendations included the Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser, Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner, Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence, Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate, Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, Midnight Recovery Concentrate, Super Multi-Corrective Eye-Opening Serum, Super Multi-Corrective Cream, and the Super Fluid UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+.


A little overview of the stuff I bought:

Ultra-Facial Cleanser ($19.50 for 5 oz.): This was the first thing I bought from the brand and I made the purchase before bothering with the skin consultation. So technically I was advised to buy the Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser, which is what I’ll try next time, but this one is supposed to be an “all skin types” kind of product. Even though it has some SLS in there, it really is gentle and non-stripping. I like it, and it comes in a massive 5 oz. bottle.

Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence ($45 for 6.8 oz.): After a cleanser, the next thing I came in to ask about was an acid exfoliator. I saw that they offered this essence with lipo hydroxy acid and sodium hyaluronate as well as the Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate with exfoliating quinoa husk extract. The essence is intended to be used twice-daily after a toner but before any serums or moisturizers and supposedly enhances all of the products that you layer on top of it without increasing sensitivity to the sun, and was something that piqued my curiosity.

Super Fluid SPF 50+ UV Defense and UV Mineral Defense sunscreens (both $38 for 1.7 oz.): These sun protection products (both SPF 50+) are watery fluids, with the UV Defense containing a mix of chemical sunscreens and the UV Mineral Defense relying on titanium dioxide for sensitive skin. I don’t typically find that chemical sunscreens react badly on my face, but after using the UV Defense fluid for 3 days it seemed like it was causing small pimples so I exchanged it for the mineral version and look forward to trying that out.

Apothecary Preparations Personalized Facial Concentrate ($95 for 1 oz.): The flagship store has a unique option to create a customizable serum that tackles up to two distinct skin concerns, which is a process inspired by the company’s history of creating custom pharmacy concoctions. You get to try out the texture of the concentrate in-store, and then you take home a bottle of Skin Strengthening Concentrate base serum with potent add-in concentrates that you mix at home after a special Apothecary Preparations consultation.

Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations customizable facial serum display
Kiehl’s Apothecary Preparations customizable facial serum display

I haven’t mixed up my bottle yet because I want to wait until I exhaust other products in my collection first. Keeping the mixture separate until you intend to use it prevents any unnecessary deterioration of ingredient potency while it sits on the shelf. The sales associate advised that while the ingredients will last just fine in the time span it takes to use the bottle up, potency will generally decline over time (I think 6 months was the time frame she referenced).

Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations customizable facial serum
Kiehl’s Apothecary Preparations customizable facial serum

You walk away with a bottle and box that have labels on them that have been personalized for you, which is super fun. My add-in concentrates will target enlarged pores and skin texture, and the concentrate as a whole feels like a light oil. You are meant to apply a few drops to the skin twice a day.

Kiehl's product samples
Kiehl’s product samples

After a few visits to the store as well as skin consultations for both my husband and I, we collected a pretty substantial pile of samples, which is also really fun. They seem to keep and provide samples for all (or nearly all) of the products in the store, and in addition to providing samples for products that come recommended in the consultation, they make sure to ask each time if there’s anything else you’re curious about.


I look forward to trying everything out and writing about my experiences. Are you a Kiehl’s fan? I would love to know if you have any favorites!

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  1. I love Kiehls products, although they are pricey! The Midnight Concentrate is really nice, but I’d say it’s more of an indulgence than a necessity.

    I’d be interested to try the mineral sunscreen, but my local Kiehls counter closed so I have nowhere to visit for samples!

    1. Oh no, sorry to hear your counter closed! I’m sort of on the fence about the price point so far, and am just sort of curious about whether I’ll find a new miracle product for my skin, ha.

      The Midnight Recovery Concentrate is so famous, and I have to say, I’ve been trying a sample over the past few nights and my skin really seems to enjoy it. I feel like I can see why people like it so much.

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