Raise your hand if you have a giant stash of skincare samples. 

I certainly do. I have a drawer that is full of fun-sized products. I don’t touch them unless I’m traveling, lacking a key step in my routine, or it’s an item I’m just dying to try.

The samples I’ll be reviewing here mostly fall into that third category of dying to try. Drunk Elephant and belif are brands I had seen praised all over the IG skincare community, but had not used myself. (As for Ole Henriksen, I’ve only used the Cold Plunge Pore Mask.)

Of course, I also made sure to time these trials well. I’m in need of a gel cleanser and currently seeking a new nighttime cream. That’s what samples are good for, right? They’re a chance to try a product before committing to a full-size version.

Read on to see if any of the four samples below have proven themselves worthy of becoming permanent staples in my routine.

skincare samples tower drunk elephant belif ole henriksen

Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser

Key ingredients: Virgin marula oil, glycerin, cantaloupe extract, and a mild surfactant blend described as a “stock of mild cleansing agents”

First impression: Wow, this leaves my face feeling clean!

After about two weeks of use: Hm, should it be leaving my face so dry?

My beloved drugstore hero, the Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser, had been on its last drops. Before repurchasing a brand new bottle, I wanted to try something new.

See, I get bored with things easily — one reason I don’t like to deem anything a Holy Grail — and I had been using the Neutrogena cleanser for almost two years. There’s nothing wrong with it. The Neutrogena does its job well as a second cleanser and my skin doesn’t totally hate it.

But as one of my Sephora birthday gifts, I received a Drunk Elephant sample duo that included this very jelly cleanser plus a moisturizer (more about that later). After going so long without trying anything from the much-lauded Drunk Elephant, I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Yes, this jelly cleanser leaves my face feeling very clean and free of any gunk. That’s good! But sometimes, it leaves my skin feeling tight and dry. That’s bad! DE says it’s a 5.5 pH level, which is “ideal” and “non-stripping.”

Eventually, I noticed that when I didn’t wash all of the cleanser off completely, that’s when my skin would start to feel dry and tight. Personally, I really have to make sure I get all of this cleanser right off. When I do, I get that clean feeling, and not so much of that dry feeling. (Or maybe I just need to do a better job of washing my face.)

Would I buy the full-size: No. I don’t love it enough to justify spending $32 on it.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream

Key ingredients: 9 Signal Peptide Complex, Pygmy Waterlily Stem Cell Extract, Soybean Folic Acid Ferment Extract

First impression: My skin seems to drink this in well.

After about two weeks of use: OK, sometimes this feels a little greasy/heavy.

My skin has been horrendously dry this winter, so to combat that I’ve opted to layer on the moisturizers. (I already use a combo of ceramides and snail mucin, but apparently that hasn’t been enough.)

The Protini cream is the second half of Sephora’s DE birthday gift. It’s a nice, mid-weight moisturizer that I find suitable for nighttime use.

The first couple of days I tried this, I wore it during the day, especially when the weather was frigid. That was not a good idea. The Protini cream felt like it blanketed my face, which ultimately led to greasiness. I’ve stuck to applying it at night, which has yielded better results.

After awhile, however, I’ve begun to have that heavy/greasy feeling at night, too. I don’t know if that’s due to the products I’m layering on top of it or if I’m being too hasty in completing my routine. (Some nights, I’ve been so tired that I’ve just slapped everything on with little pause and then dozed off.)

One major benefit: the Protini has been effective in keeping the flakes away. I do wish it came in a tube rather than a jar.

Would I buy the full-size: No. Especially not for $68. Again, I didn’t love it, but using this wasn’t in vain, either. While DE says it’s good for just about any skin type, I don’t think it meshes so well with my at-times extremely oily complexion.

belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb

Key ingredients: Lady’s Mantle, Malachite, Plantin, Oat Husk

First impression: It feels like someone threw a water balloon on my face.

After about two weeks of use: It’s okay?

I used the Aqua Bomb as a daytime cream while I was in-between daytime moisturizers. It’s lightweight, which is ideal for my oil slick of a face. Also, it smells good.

It didn’t totally impress me, however.

Yes, I like that initial water balloon feeling, especially when I’m dragging my feet in the morning and need to wake up. And my skin does drink it in nicely. Unlike the Protini above, the Aqua Bomb doesn’t feel like it’s just laying on top of my face.

But…it’s simply okay. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it, either. Honestly, I don’t have much more to really say about it! I am officially ambivalent towards this.

Would I buy the full size: No, but… maybe if it’s on sale, or as part of a kit, I’ll be inclined to count on it as a backup moisturizer.

Ole Henriksen C-Rush Brightening Gel Creme

Key ingredients: Ascorbic acid, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Rose of Winter

First impression: It reminds me of sherbet.

After about two weeks nights of use: Eh, I don’t think so.

I bought the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum as my intro to regular Vitamin C use. The C-Rush Creme was one of the samples available at Sephora at the time of purchase, so I figured it would be useful to try it as a companion to the Truth Serum.

Honestly, I haven’t reached for it much. To put it plainly, I don’t like the way it feels. Plus, it doesn’t feel totally necessary for me to use this in conjunction with the Truth Serum, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much.

Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever used a gel creme. Jelly, yes, but not quite this consistency. In any case, it’s a pass from me.

Would I buy the full size:  No.

Final tally: 0-for-4!

Well, let the above result show why skincare samples are important! I certainly feel a lot less guilty about trying these and not liking them. Had I gone ahead and coughed up to $70 on full-size versions of each, I’d have felt like I threw my money away, with the added stress of trying to find a way to re-purpose everything.

So let this serve as a lesson that no matter how hyped up a product or brand is, try before you buy.

If you have friends in the skincare community who own a product you’re curious about, perhaps they’d be keen on decanting some in a smaller container for you to test. (I’ve done this, often as a trade for a product of mine they want to try! So both parties benefit.)

Now it’s your turn….

Have you used any of the products featured here? How often do you use samples? Let’s talk — leave your answers in the comments below.

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I am not a professional. All opinions are my own.