2014/10/29

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum

Although rarely mentioned by Western beauty bloggers, the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is a firm favourite among Asian beauty bloggers and is touted as something of a miracle product. Now, the word "miracle" always makes me a bit skeptical when referring to skincare, but of course I could not resist the urge to try it out for myself.

Sulwhasoo is a high-end Korean beauty brand rooted in traditional Korean herbal medicine. Their products are based around various plant extracts that aim to balance and purify the skin. The First Care Activating Serum is meant to be used as the first step of your skincare routine right after cleansing, so it should be used before any toners, serums, or creams. It claims to replenish moisture in the skin right after natural oils are stripped away by cleansing, improve skin's ability to retain moisture, promote blood circulation in the facial area, and help subsequent skincare products absorb better and thus perform better.







In terms of packaging, the product comes in a hefty ceramic bottle with a plastic lid. It is quite heavy, so may not be the most convenient when travelling. It comes with a pump, which is my preferred way of dispensing serums, because it keeps the product away from air exposure and thus allows the active ingredients to degrade slower. Although the bottle looks like an opaque white, when you hold the bottle against the light, you can see how much product is left inside, which I find very convenient. The actual serum is amber coloured and has a watery-gel texture. It has a pleasant herbal scent and absorbs very quickly into the skin, but doesn't leave that smooth, silicone feeling over the skin that many serums do. I use 3 pumps for my entire face and neck.

When I first started using the product, it was in the hot, humid climate of summer in China. My sensitive skin responded to the heat in that my skin was always red, and I noticed immediate results from this serum when my skin drastically reduced in redness just after the first few days. This effect continued during the whole time I used this product, but apart from that, I wasn't seeing any other immediate results and was a bit put off. I didn't think a little reduction in redness could justify the "miracle product" standing.

I find that while Western skincare products are often more aggressive in the sense that they deliver fast results but can be harsh/irritating on the skin, Asian skincare is often more demure. It is much more gentle on the skin, but can take a much longer time to see substantial results. After using this product every day and night for the last three months, I can now definitively say that it has made three big changes to my skin:

1. It has reduced the redness in my skin.
2. It has made my skin much less sensitive/reactive to other products and environmental factors.
3. It has changed my skin from combination-oily to more of a normal skin type.

These changes happened over a very long period of time, so I didn't think the product was doing very much until I noticed that the foundation on my nose was not slipping off by the end of the day, and that I was suffering from much less break outs every month. This product works to balance the oil-water ratio in the skin, thus reducing any overproduction of oil, but also helps the skin to better retain moisture, resulting in plump, radiant skin for me. It also helps to calm the skin, which means my face doesn't turn into a bright red tomato every time the bae tries to kiss me with stubble, among other skin-irritating things.

I picked up the limited edition 90mL size,which will probably last me 4 months in total, using it twice a day everyday, 3 pumps every time. I like to pump the product into the palm of my hand, rub my palms together, and just smooth over my entire face and neck. I then pat my face a couple times with both palms to ensure that the product absorbs.

Redness, sensitive skin, and combination skin type are three very common skincare concerns that often are met with no adequate solution, so the fact that the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum was able to address all three of these concerns was really impressive. The promise of subsequent products being better absorbed is also tempting, because it means you will be getting better bang for your buck for every skincare product you apply.  However, it's not like my skin is completely void of redness now or that I never break out anymore, so I still wouldn't quite say this is anything of a "miracle". The final verdict? I wouldn't call it a "miracle product", but it's a damn good product as far as skincare goes.

2014/10/07

4 Products That Just Weren't Right For Me



Skincare is such a personal thing, and sometimes products that others rave about simply don't get along with me. Being an avid beauty blog reader, it's so easy to get sucked in to product hype. I think now, I'm finally starting to learn to take a step back and think "Is this really the right product for me?" So here are 4 products that are raved about, but simply weren't the right fit for me.


Kiehl's Rosa Artica Youth Regenerating Cream ($65 for 50mL)

Purchased under the influence of Michelle Phan way back when. To be honest I don't even know what her skin type is. Back then my thought process was just "Well, she has good skin, I want good skin, therefore I should use this product." Sound logic. But no, really though, this product is so rich in shea butter, it feels like I'm smothering my face in butter, and that is not how I want to live my life. It contains other moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and squalene, but it smells exclusively of shea butter, and is a very, very, very, VERY rich texture (like butter, as I said).

Personally, I prefer moisturizers that rely primarily on humectants, which are ingredients that draw moisture into the epidermis. Examples would be glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Ingredients like shea butter are occlusives, which work by essentially forming a shield over the skin and preventing water from evaporating off. Occlusives can be good for dry or mature skin types, which I'm assuming is what this cream is actually marketed towards (hence Youth Regenerating). For my combination skin, this was just way too much.

I actually managed to use up the whole pot by applying it on dry spots on my body (elbows, heels, knees) before sleep. This cream actually works wonderfully at softening cracked heels, but at $65 for 50mL, it's way out of my foot cream price range.


Soap & Glory Hand Food ($10 for 115mL)

It's possible that I am the only person in the entire world who dislikes this hand cream. I feel like every single beauty blogger I follow has raved about this product at least once throughout their blogging career. This product comes up so frequently in lists of top drugstore buys, and I can see why. The texture of it is actually lovely and it sinks in really nicely. However, I am just not a fan of that signature Soap & Glory scent. It's way too strong and actually makes me nauseous. I would be able to tolerate the product if the scent eventually went away, but it does not go away. Once the hand cream is on, the fragrance is staying for the party.

I've resorted to using this on my feet as well, because that's a bit more far away from my nose and I can tolerate it. If you don't mind the scent of Soap & Glory products, this is actually a really nice hand cream. I'm pretty bummed out that this didn't work out for me because it is a really affordable hand cream option. Alas, for now I will stick with my Caudalie and The Body Shop formulas.


Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Intensive Hand Cream ($27 for 70mL)

You might be able to tell at this point that I'm really picky with hand creams, and I'm not going to deny that. I really hate the feeling of hand cream just sitting on top of the skin, like I can actually feel that it's there and everything is slippery and life is just difficult. This hand cream is one of those. It's a really nourishing formula, but it never really sinks in. It just rubs off on my sheets and pillows throughout the night. I put some on just now so I could write this post, and it's all over my keyboard. How's that for dedication?


Caudalie Premieres Vendanges Moisturizing Cream ($40 for 40mL)

Caudalie is one of my favourite brands for skincare, so I really made it effort to make this cream work for me. I tried it out on several separate occasions until I finally came to terms with the fact that this just wasn't right for me. It's a velvety textured moisturizer that does sink in fairly quickly to my skin, but it doesn't really do anything. It doesn't hydrate that well, and I don't see any obvious benefits to using this, especially for the price.

I've since used it up as a night time hand cream, and it's pretty fabulous for that. A little expensive for a hand cream, but hey, skin's skin.

2014/09/28

Summer 2014 SPFs Round-Up







Summer may be over, but wearing SPF should be year round. UVA rays are one of the primary causes of signs of aging in the skin, and I personally think that it's always easier to prevent these signs before they appear rather than try to fix them afterwards. I featured quite a few SPF numbers on the blog over the summer, so here I compare them against each other and give you guys all the deets on the pros and cons. Get ready for a very lengthy post! Or just read the pros and cons if you hate quality writing (I jest).


(image from usa.loccitane.com)



L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening UV Shield SPF 40 ($70 for 30mL)

Featured in my post "Trialling SPF's". This was the first SPF I used this summer, so unfortunately I've used it all up and threw out the bottle. It has a very liquid texture and is a physical sunscreen, which are both properties I prefer for my daily SPF. It also happens to be the only SPF I'ved owned that comes in convenient pump packaging (!!!), so you can control how much you want to use, which is going to be important since this sunscreen is very, very pricey. That being said, sunscreen is not one of those things where "less is better". If you do not use a sufficient amount, you will not get the proper protection, and that would just be a waste of time and money.

I don't think it's possible for a physical sunscreen to leave no white cast at all, but this one is very,very subtle. The texture of the product is very easy to rub in and it absorbs easily. It has a slight floral scent that's quite pleasant and isn't too overpowering. It contains a myriad of plant extracts aimed at brightening the skin, but I personally don't think these ingredients are going to be able to absorb into the skin efficiently, especially since they're probably only present in very small quantities. Water, silicone, and the mineral SPF ingredients make up the majority of the product. And since you apply SPF as the last step of your skincare routine, those plant extracts are going to have to penetrate moisturizer and whatever other products are underneath, which I think is highly unlikely. So if those plant extracts are what make the price so high, I don't think it's worth your time. Plant ingredients can also cause irritation to the skin. I personally had no problem with this product, but those with sensitive skin should ask for some samples at a L'Occitane store before committing to the full sized product.

Another thing I'm somewhat concerned with is that the only SPF ingredient contained in this product is titanium dioxide, which is great for protection against UVB rays, but cannot provide sufficient protection against UVA rays unless the concentration is high. In this case, the product has 11.52% titanium dioxide, which might be enough to provide UVA protection since the product does make the claim of being broad spectrum (ie. protects against both UVA and UVB rays). However, for us regular consumers, it's hard to be really sure about these things, so I'd rather err on the side of caution and opt for something that also has UVA-protection ingredients.

Pros:
 - lightweight texture
 - not a very noticeable white cast
 - sinks in quickly (not sticky at all)
 - has plant extracts that may or may not help with hyperpigmentation

Cons:
 - expensive
 - titanium dioxide may not provide sufficient UVA protection
  - plant extracts may irritate sensitive skin





Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion SPF 33 ($41 for 100mL)

Featured in my post "July Favourites". This one is a physical sunscreen that has a whooping 13.9% zinc oxide and 3.3% titanium dioxide so it has got both the UVA and UVB protection down. Again, a very liquid texture that is easy to spread. The white cast is also hardly noticeable. I first started using this while I was in China and didn't enjoy it as much, because the product does feel a bit oily. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because physical sunscreens require oil to make sure that the mineral sunscreen ingredients (ie. zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) can be blended evenly over the skin. However, in very humid weather, the oil just felt a bit heavy on the skin and wasn't the most comfortable thing to put on. 

Since coming back to Vancouver, I've been enjoying this product a lot, probably because my skin is a bit drier and I'm not sweating buckets all the time. When I say oily, I don't mean super heavy and sticky. This product leaves more of a satin-y, soft finish on the skin. I like to apply in 2-3 thin layers rather than in 1 thick layer because I find that feels more lightweight, and it can help to evenly distribute the sunscreen and make sure you cover every bit of skin. 


Because this product is free of fragrance and alcohol and is a physical sunscreen (rather than a chemical sunscreen), it's a great option for those with sensitive skin, and I always gravitate towards it when my skin is acting up. It's also pretty reasonably priced because you get a whooping 100mL, which is more than 3 times as much as the standard 30mL you get with other products. The one real downside to this product for me is that it doesn't always sit the best under makeup. It can kind of slip and slide a little bit depending on the base makeup I'm using, but using makeup primer helps fix this problem.


Pros:

 - lightweight liquid texture
 - not a very noticeable white cast
 - high concentration of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide full UVA/UVB protection
 - great for sensitive skin
 - good price for the amount you're getting

Con:

 - slightly oily texture not good for humid weather
 - can slip and slide under makeup if you don't use a primer


Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face ($30 for 30mL)


Probably the longest name for an SPF anyone has ever seen. This is a relatively new one for me. I picked it up from Sephora Times Square on a recent trip over to the states. Again, lightweight liquid texture, you know the drill. This is actually a physical-chemical sunscreen hybrid, which means it contains both physical and chemical sunscreen products. In this case, 4.9% octinoxate (UVB protection), 3.0% octocrylene (UVB protection), 12.5% zinc oxide (UVA/UVB protection). Strangely enough, this leaves the most obvious white cast out of all of these options. It's actually quite noticeable and doesn't really go away even if you leave it for a few minutes. I don't mind the white cast if I'm going to be wearing makeup because it'll be covered anyway. Strangely enough, this sunscreen actually has a bit of a perfecting quality in that it blurs out my acne scars and covers up some of the redness in my skin. It doesn't really provide coverage, but just makes things a little less noticeable, which means I can use less of my base makeup. 

This product is oil-free, which seems to make the texture quite dry. That seems strange since it is a liquid, but once you start spreading it over the face, you'll start to notice that it doesn't glide over as smoothly as something like the Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion. It really can dry quite matte, which may not be suitable for dry skin. I have combination skin but I don't really suffer from dry patches, so I can get away with using it. Because it does dry down very matte, it doesn't slip and slide at all under makeup, which I really like. 

Pros:
 - liquid, lightweight texture
 - dries matte = good for under makeup
 - does not irritate sensitive skin
 - blurs imperfections on the skin

Cons: 
 - leaves a noticeable white cast
 - dry texture not suitable for dry or combination-dry skin




Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF 50 PA+++ ($13.99 for 50g)

Featured in my post "A Love and a Shrug #3: SPF Edition". (Let's not even talk about the Dr. Sebagh SPF also mentioned in that post. That was just a disaster to apply and such a waste of money.) This is the only chemical sunscreen I'm talking about today. As a result, it does not leave a white cast at all and has an oil-free formula. It has a very interesting watery-gel texture that feels like a lightweight moisturizer and sinks in almost instantly, so this is the most comfortable to wear out of the four options. It has kind of a strong fragrance and contains alcohol as the second ingredient listed, which is typical of Japanese drugstore skincare, but makes it unsuitable for sensitive skin types. This product doesn't break me out, but kind of gives me that uncomfortable feeling like it's irritating my skin, so I don't use it as much, but it is fantastic for hot, humid climates. I also think it would make for a good body SPF at the beach as it sinks in super quick and is pretty affordable, being a drugstore product.


I've seen a lot of bloggers recommend this product, so I think it really is a matter of personal preference for me. I prefer physical sunscreen to chemical sunscreen, because physical sunscreen is less irritating for sensitive skin, and I don't like the idea of chemical sunscreen ingredients absorbing into the skin. Physical sunscreen (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) works by forming a shield over the skin and reflecting UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays before they get to the skin. Chemical sunscreens degrade over time or become inactivated by the sun, so you have to reapply often, which really is just unrealistic for those of us who wear makeup. I suppose I also just think that the image of UV rays bouncing off of a shield looks way cooler, but that's not important, shhhhh...


Pros:

 - lightweight watery-gel texture makes it the most comfortable to wear 
 - oil free
 - no white cast
 - most affordable option 

Cons:

 - contains fragrance and alcohol (not good for sensitive skin types) 
 - have to reapply often (not possible over makeup) 


Innisfree Eco Natural Suncare BB Powder ($20 for 150g)


Featured in my post "Innisfree Haul + First Impressions". This is an SPF pressed powder that is slightly tinted. Let me just start out by saying that powder sunscreen can not replace liquid sunscreen. You would have to apply an absolutely ridiculous amount of powder sunscreen to get the sufficient SPF protection. However, for those of us who wear makeup on a daily basis, it's unrealistic to take all the makeup off, reapply liquid sunscreen during the middle of the day, and put all the makeup back on. This is where powder sunscreen comes in! This Innisfree one is great because it comes with a puff attached to the lid which makes for easy application on-the-go. It doesn't make my makeup go cakey either. Obviously you're not going to get the same amount of SPF protection as you would by reapplying a liquid sunscreen, but it's better than nothing.


Sometimes when I'm having a no-makeup day, I also apply this powder over top of my liquid sunscreen. It gives a very slight tint that helps to even out the skin tone, and it mattifies the skin so dust particles won't stick to the liquid sunscreen.


The Verdict

Overall, I think the Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion comes out on top for my daily SPF. The high concentration of zinc oxide ensures sufficient protection against both UVA and UVB. It's a great fail-safe option for sensitive skin or skin that's breaking out, and doesn't leave a noticeable white cast.

My second pick would be the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face. Although it leaves a white cast, I'm very fond of its perfecting qualities, and it makes a great base for makeup.


I don't really have any special feelings towards the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF 50 PA+++ and L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening UV Shield SPF 40. They're both great products and could be suitable for those with skin types different than my own, but I likely will not repurchase them again.


The Innisfree Eco Natural Suncare BB Powder is a great item to keep in your handbag for mid-day touch-ups, but cannot replace a daily liquid SPF application. 

What was your favourite SPF this summer?

2014/09/14

The Ultimate Blackhead Fighter: Enzyme Washing Powders









Balm cleansers, cleansing gels, cleansing milks, facial bar soaps... we've really seen it all when it comes to different textures of cleansers. Still, the idea of a washing powder seemed very strange to me, mainly because it reminded me a bit too much of laundry detergent. I first picked up the PIU White Washing Powder as a more gentle exfoliating alternative to acids/chemical exfoliation, which I mentioned in my post "Are You Over Exfoliating?" was much too harsh for me and really damaged my skin. Like all the other washing powder options I will be mentioning today, PIU contains fruit enzymes (specifically papain from papayas, which seems to be the most popular choice), but it foams up (sort of, I'll explain in a bit) like a regular face wash, so you can gently exfoliate the skin while washing your face as normal. It really is a great way to exfoliate and my skin is always super smooth and soft afterwards, but the best thing about washing powders is that they got rid of my blackheads.

Blackheads are a problem that I've struggled with for such a long time. One of the first things I learned when
I started getting into skincare products is to fight blackheads with salicylic acid, and I was slathering on a salicylic acid gel from Neutrogena every night from the age of 14 all the way up until 17. Now that I look back on it, I really don't know why I kept up the habit for so long considering it did absolutely nothing. Nowadays, for the most part I have combination-normal skin and really don't suffer from blackheads as much as during my earlier teenage years. But during the summer, my skin turns combination-oily and hello strawberry nose. The skin on my nose starts to feel all bumpy, like you can feel that all the pores are clogged up. Ew. Mud masks helped, but the effect was only temporary. Seeing as I've never gotten any success with blackhead products in the past, I sort of just gave up and tried to ignore the problem.

When I started using the PIU Washing Powder as my night time cleanser, I started noticing that after washing my face, I would see little white dots floating out of the pores on my nose, like the trapped sebum had been washed out of the pore. After a few days, the skin on my nose didn't feel as bumpy any more, and after a week or so, I didn't see any more blackheads! The PIU Washing Powder makes for a really deep cleanse, yet it is gentle enough to use everyday. My skin was feeling a lot less congested, and more importantly, no more strawberry nose.


I'm demonstrating here using another great washing powder option, the Orbis Oil Cut Powder Wash. I'm not sure why it's called "oil cut" since it doesn't mattify the face or anything. I guess they're referring to the fact that you get rid of all that excess sebum that clogs pores. The Orbis option should only be used 1-3 times a week depending on how sensitive your skin is. However, for those who suffer from blackheads in the T-zone, I think you can use the powder wash more often just on that area.

1. As you see, the product comes in a solid powder form. The Orbis option comes in circular granules, while PIU is a powder that looks a lot like laundry detergent (but I promise it's not laundry detergent).

2. The enzymes are activated upon contact with water. Try to use water that's luke warm so you don't denature the enzymes (ie. cause them to stop working). By adding water and rubbing your palms together, you can get this sort of light, sudsy foam, which is completely fine for washing your face.

3. For those like me who prefer more of a dense, creamy foam, rub a foaming net between your palms.

4. You'll be left with a really dense foam that helps to reduce friction from your fingers when washing your face to reduce irritation, and just feels that bit more luxurious.

I like to pair my washing powders with my Clarisonic Mia, because the Clarisonic seems to be able to wash off the gunk that floats out of my pores. I've been love love loving the new Luxe Cashmere Cleanse brush head as it's just about the softest thing ever, but more on that in another post. You can also gently (and I mean GENTLY) go over the skin with one of those loop extractors to clean out the pores.

Personally I find the Orbis and PIU options to be pretty similar apart from the fact that PIU can be used everyday, while Orbis can only be used 1-3 times a week. However, PIU has a really bizarre scent that I can't quite describe but I certainly don't find pleasant, while the Orbis doesn't have any scent. It really is a matter of personal preference.






Another option that looks oh so luxe is the TATCHA Rice Enzyme Powder. Just look at that gorgeous packaging ugh. Of course, gorgeous packaging seems to be always come with a price, so the price is definitely more high end, but I've seen great reviews for the product. TATCHA also contains papaya enzymes and is gentle enough for everyday use. Rice is also one of my favourite ingredients in skincare, so someday when I'm ready to fork out $65 for a cleanser, this gorgeous little number will be mine.

If you're someone who really struggles with blackheads or congested skin and cannot find a solution, I would 100% recommend you try washing powders. They've really made a world of a difference for me and are honestly kind of fun to use, and who doesn't love that?

2014/09/07

Cleansing Lotions Over Cleansing Oils

In my last post, "Are You Over-Exfoliating?", I mentioned that I did not get along with the trend of acid toners, like, at all. Another huge trend that my skin was just not on board with is the craze for oils in skincare, both in the form of facial oils and cleansing oils/balms. In theory, great ideas, and it's true that they worked out well for many people. But on my skin, facial oils wrecked havoc - every single one I tried broke me out badly and just left my skin so congested, including the well-loved Clarins Lotus Oil, Josie Maran Argan Oil, and Pai Rosehip Seed Oil. I completely gave up on the whole facial oil idea and just went back to my regular moisturizers, so I don't have a whole lot more to say on that.

With cleansing oils/balms, I loved how simple and easy it was to just rub them in and be able to take off all my makeup, including heavy eye makeup and lip sticks. However, my skin was always still a little bit congested from using them and it felt like I always had bumps under my skin that just never came to a head. I put off looking for an alternative because the process was just so quick and I didn't really know what else to use for makeup removal anyway (apart from makeup wipes *shivers*). In comes summer, and let me just say that in the 40°C temperature + humidity in China, rubbing oil on my face was really the last thing I wanted to be doing. 

In my mind, I always had the impression that milky-textured cleansing milks, lotions, and creams did not have the ability to thoroughly remove makeup. However, I picked up the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion and was amazed by its ability to even remove lipstick and waterproof mascara. Its fragrance-free, oil-free, and alcohol-free formula makes it ideal for sensitive skin. I just take a couple of pumps of the product (usually 6-8 pumps), smooth it over my entire face and neck (I don't wear makeup on my neck but I do wear SPF, and all SPF products need to be removed with a makeup removal product), draw circles on my face with my fingertips for a minute or two, and then rinse off with water. Because there is no need to remove with a towel or muslin cloth like cleansing oils/balms do, I found that my sensitive skin was much less irritated.





















Here I decided to show the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion in action:

1. I have on the back of my hand, from left to right, YSL Touche Eclat Foundation, Anastasia Brow Wiz, Bobbi Brown Gel Liner, Makeup Forever Rouge Artist Natural Lipstick, and the notoriously hard to remove Kiss Me Heroine Make Mascara

2. I applied the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion and spent a minute drawing circles on the back of my hand to really dissolve the makeup.

3. I rinsed off with water, and as you can see, all of the makeup is gone, even the mascara!

4. I went over the back of my hand again with some Bioderma just to be sure nothing was left. The cotton pad was spotless.


The only downside to this product is probably that I go through the bottle quite fast. A 200mL bottle probably lasts me a month. Then again, the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion is a fairly affordable product, it being drugstore and all, and I feel that it removes makeup better than the other options I've tried.

Another option that I enjoyed using is the Bevy C. Purifying Renewal Makeup Cleansing Milk. While it is called a milk, it definitely feels more like a lotion as well. What I like about this product is that it contains plant extracts to help gently slough away dead skin. I've lost the packaging so I can't be 100% certain, but I believe it uses yeast enzymes for this rather than acids, so it makes for a much, much more gentle exfoliation. However, this product is only available in China, so definitely not the most accessible of options. 

The Elemental Herbology Bio-Cellular Super Cleanse, on the other hand, is much easier to get a hold of. Elemental Herbology definitely feels like more of a luxurious product with the scent and packaging. I also appreciate the tube packaging as pump bottles are hard to travel with. This offering also gently exfoliates while removing your makeup with the addition of malic acid. It also contains a bunch of other plant extracts to help nourish and moisturize the skin. Bottom line: it removes makeup well, but not so much waterproof eye makeup, and is very pleasant to use. I believe Lancome also have a milky-cream makeup removal product that has good reviews (Galatee Confort Comforting Milky Cream Cleanser), but I have yet to give it a try. 

While products like the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Lotion are capable of removing waterproof eye makeup and long-lasting lipsticks, I prefer to go in first with one of those dual-phase waterproof makeup removers on a cotton pad. I'm currently loving the Clinique Take the Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes and Lids (what a mouthful!) because it removes eye makeup so easily without any rubbing or tugging at the lids, and it doesn't contain any artificial colouring or fragrance. Then, I go in with a cleansing lotion to remove my face makeup and eyebrows. I know it's still more of a hassle than using a cleansing oil, but I honestly think it's so worth it. Since making the switch, I've seen such a difference in my skin in that it doesn't feel congested anymore, and I don't seem to get those under the skin bumps. 

Do you think you'll be making the switch to cleansing lotions?

2014/08/18

Are You Over Exfoliating?






Exfoliating toners have been super big in the beauty community as of late and they seem to be something that everyone swears by for brighter, clearer - and just generally better - skin. For those of us who are regularly updated on our Bloglovin feed and Youtube beauty channels, it's very easy to get sucked up into the hype when a trend like this emerges. As it turns out, regular exfoliation is not something that works out for me. It really ruined my skin and it took a long time for me to fix the problems that over-exfoliation created, and I had to learn the hard way that we should always take a step back to evaluate "Is this trend really good for my skin?" before jumping on the bandwagon.  

When we exfoliate with physical scrubs or chemical exfoliants, we are taking dead skin cells off of the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of the epidermis. This layer is responsible for protecting the underlying skin tissue from any infection and physical stress. The stratum corneum contains a network of proteins that prevent the skin from becoming dehydrated by preventing evaporation, as well as give skin that sort of plump, bouncy texture when you touch it. Given the importance of the stratum corneum, we can conclude that maintaining a healthy stratum corneum is essential for healthy skin, and that a damaged stratum corneum will result in a myriad of skin problems. 

We've probably all heard that it takes 28 days for the skin to renew itself, which means that it takes 28 days for the dead skin cells in the stratum corneum to naturally shed off and be replaced by skin cells migrating up from the deeper layers of the epidermis. This is true for skin when you're in your 20's or younger. As we age, this renewal process slows down, and it may take 30, 40, 50, or more days. As a result, the stratum corneum becomes thicker. Fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear, the skin starts to lose its plumpness and becomes more dry. At this point, regular exfoliation can be beneficial to thin out the stratum corneum and push along the skin renewal process. For young skin, this isn't really necessary and can result in the stratum corneum becoming damaged if it becomes too thin.

Another thing to consider is that the thickness of the stratum corneum can vary between individuals for genetic reasons, such as ethnicity. The exfoliating toner fad emerged from the UK beauty blogger community, primarily bloggers who are Caucasian. A bit of research led me to find out that Asian skin, particuarly East Asian skin, has a much thinner stratum corneum than Caucasian skin. The stratum corneum in Asian skin is easily damaged, and Asian women take particular care to maintain a healthy stratum corneum in their extensive skincare routines. 

Now on to my own personal experience. Being Chinese and in the 20's category myself, at this point you can probably predict that exfoliating toners/pads everyday and exfoliating treatments twice a week turned out very badly for me. The picture shows some of the products I purchased during my "wow exfoliation is going to be the best thing in the world" phase. I'll definitely be passing them on to friends, because this exfoliating routine made my skin very, very irritated. I had a lot of redness on my face and was breaking out much more than usual. Many beauty bloggers swear by exfoliating to get rid of acne scars, but I think mine looked a lot worse both because my skin was so red and because my skin was probably dehydrated. 

Thankfully, I eventually figured out that regular exfoliation is not for me. I think I went through this exfoliation phase around January or February this year, and it has taken until now for my skin to become balanced again. I still do exfoliate but I've moved on to very gentle options such as the CURE Natural Aqua Peeling Gel (It causes the "waste" dead skin to ball up when you apply it so you can just wash it off. A really weird but effective product) or enzyme washing powders (which I will be talking about in a post very soon!), and I exfoliate much less frequently. 

If you are experiencing skin that is easily irritated and prone to breakouts, you may want to consider cutting down on the exfoliating and really focus on hydrating the skin. For me, the real secret to better skin is thorough makeup removal followed by a gentle cleanse and lots and lots and lots of hydration. 

2014/08/06

July Favourites

This is actually the first monthly favourites post on the blog. I usually don't find the need to write a favourites post as I mention my favourites in various posts throughout the month, but this month I haven't been able to blog as much, so I decided to round up the best of beauty here. 

First up is yet another SPF favourite. I know I've already mentioned a few SPF loves recently, but as it is still summer, wearing SPF is extremely important so it can't hurt to mention another one. The Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion for Sensitive Skin and Babies is a completely physical sunscreen with a whooping 13.9% zinc oxide and 3.3% titanium dioxide to ensure protection against both UVB and UVA rays. I'm pretty picky with SPFs - or rather, my very sensitive skin is pretty picky with SPFs - but if this suncreen is gentle enough for babies 6 months and over, it's good enough for me. It's SPF 33, which is completely fine for city activities, but there is also a SPF 50 counterpart for those going on vacation. The product comes in an extremely liquid texture. Physical sunscreens can feel heavy and greasy on the skin due to the oil content needed to spread the mineral SPF actives evenly. I find that applying in 2-3 thin layers rather than one thick layer can help to spread the sufficient amount of sunscreen needed to provide the full SPF protection while minimizing greasiness and difficulties with blending. I find that applying this way, this product leaves a very smooth finish on the skin that isn't heavy at all. 

Another skincare favourite this month is the Biotherm Life Plankton Essence. I picked this up at a Biotherm counter in Shanghai, but I was told that it will be released worldwide soon. Apparently, "Life Plankton" is a micro-organism that live in the French Pyrenees hot springs, known as the "fountain of youth" due to its ability to sooth the wounds of Roman soldiers and preserve the youthfulness in women's skin. The product has a very watery consistency and I like to use it as a hydrating toner, but I think of it as kind of a toner-serum hybrid. It helps to hydrate the skin, increase cellular turnover in the skin to reveal brighter skin, and aid in the absorption of subsequent products. During the first week that I used this product, I didn't really see any effects. It felt comfortable on the skin, absorbed nicely, and had no obtrusive scent, but that was about it. After the first week though, I noticed that my skin started to feel incredibly smooth and had this healthy glow to it. As I've been staying in air conditioning pretty much 24/7, my skin has been dangerously on the verge of being dehydrated, but this product has been keeping my skin nicely plump and hydrated. The sales assistant at the Biotherm counter told me that after 28 days (the skin renews itself every 28 days), I would see significant improvement in acne scars and fine lines. Now I don't struggle with fine lines and other signs of aging, but I will keep you all updated on the acne scars front.

I got a Japanese perm (permanent waves) in June and it has seriously saved me so much time getting ready in the morning. I roll out of bed with hair that actually looks very nice, and my hair doesn't require any extra maintenance compared to its natural state. The one step that I have added to my hair care routine is a salt spray, and I went with the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray. I went with the smaller 1.7oz size as it's super easy to carry around. I find that a surf spray really helps to enhance the curls in my hair. When I feel that my hair is getting a bit flat after a few days of unwash, I spray a bit of this through the ends of my hair, scrunch it up a few times, and I'm left with more texturized, defined curls. I've also tried spraying this on damp hair and scrunching my hair while it's drying, but I actually ended up with hair that was a bit too curly for my liking. I think those who don't have a perm but want a bit of a wave to their hair would benefit more from using a salt spray on damp hair and scrunching up/twisting the hair while it dries. 

As summer in China has been so incredibly hot and humid, my use of makeup has been limited to a very light BB cream, brow gel, and a nice lip colour. I've already mentioned the Innisfree Eco Flower Tint 3 Rose in my recent Innisfree haul post here, and my love for it is still going strong. It's a rosy lip stain that is very long wearing and can be patted in sheerly for a rosy tint, or layered on for a warm-toned red lip. There's also a peachy pink and an orange in the Eco Flower Tint range and I'm definitely thinking of picking those up. Another lip favourite is the Dior Addict Lip Glow, which comes in absolutely gorgeous pink packaging and is so easy to use. Just swipe it on like you would a lip balm and you're done. It's one of those tinted lip balm type deals, but the colour sort of varies for everyone. When I use it, I get a very rosy lip, but when my mum uses it, she gets more of a pink lip. It leaves a nice glossy finish and is incredibly moisturizing as a lip balm. I think the only complaint I have for this product is that it doesn't come in more colours. 

What were your July favourites?