Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant


As a teenager I tried a few salicylic acid facial washes that promised clear skin but always fell short.  I assumed this popular anti-acne ingredient was something that worked well for others but not for me because I was in some unlucky minority that didn't respond well.  My troubled skin was still relatively good at the time so I didn't have a strong motivation to figure out why salicylic acid did nothing for me.  Fast forward into my 20s and I realized it was worth looking into again.  A few google searches revealed what many skincare bloggers already knew: salicylic acid is pretty much only effective at pH 4.0 or below.  In other words, the foaming cleansers I'd used in my teens were too alkaline for its main ingredient to effectively keep the breakouts at bay.  What a waste!

Even with this new knowledge it took me some time to decide on buying Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant.  What finally tipped me into being interested was finding out the pH of this product was between 3.5 and 3.9, an excellent range that is perfect for beta hydroxy acid (BHA), or salicylic acid, to work its magic. Most products can require several weeks to be effective (the time needed for skin turnover) but within 1-2 weeks of using this liquid I saw jaw-dropping positive results! =D

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: Soap & Glory Hand Food Hand Cream


When I see Soap & Glory products I can't help but consider them gimmicky with their "hey, I'm talking to you" product descriptions, all those overemphasized WORDS in CAPITALS and the excited! punctuation!  However, when I saw their Hand Food Hand Cream was highly rated on Sephora and that it would help me get free shipping, I decided to give it a try.  My love for trying new hand creams (especially those with donkey milk!) outweighed my fear that "The Most Astonishing Hand Cream Ever?" was friends with the video named "You've Gotta Watch This!" and its cousin "You Won't Believe What Happens Next!"

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Secret Key Milk Whipping Hand Cream

When it comes to facial skincare I get pretty excited about trying new products, but I also have to carefully research their ingredients knowing my acne-prone skin will punish me if I don't.  This is why I'm a huge fan of hand creams because I don't have to subject them to the same high standards!  My fingers don't break out or turn red with incompatible products, so I get to try out many more with a la-di-da attitude.  If my face reacts badly to something new I have to dump it and consider it wasted $, but if I dislike a hand cream I can still use it up at the end of the day.

My collection of hand creams is extensive because I always buy more before finishing the previous ones.  They're usually cheaper than facial skincare and I know I'll definitely use them up over time, sooner or later, so I don't feel guilty about randomly trying so many.  I keep one in each purse/bag I own and rotate them around, especially when I uncover half-used ones I forgot I owned.  =P

Secret Key is a Korean brand that also makes snail products but I zeroed in on their unique Milk Whipping Hand Cream for its donkey milk ingredient.  Yes, that's right.  DONKEY MILK!  I will say it a few more times over this review because when else will I get to use that phrase??

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: Josie Maran Argan Infinity Cream Intensive Creamy Oil

Josie Maran - Argan Infinity Cream Intensive Creamy Oil 

In previous posts I discussed how two brands of pure argan oil performed similarly on my face.  Price was the main difference and my take away lesson was to use that as my criteria when shopping for my next bottle of argan oil.  However, I also recently received a few more Josie Maran skincare products as presents so had a chance to try another argan-based product, Josie Maran's Argan Infinity Cream Intensive Oil.

As a a mix of argan and other plant oils, this cream moisturizer quickly melts upon application into a smooth oil.  I assume it's called "Infinity" because it's supposed to have a ton of uses (for face, hair, lips etc).  After trying this product on my face, eye area and chapped lips I find it worked as a so-so moisturizer for my dry face but failed miserably as a lip treatment.  (My Carmex lip balm outperforms this product by miles.)

All-in-one products aren't designed to be the best at everything, just okay at a bunch so that they earn points as a convenient item to carry around.  I personally prefer using different products for different targets knowing they'll work, rather than using one item for everything and getting a mediocre outcome.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Review: Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil


I'd long heard of Josie Maran's 100% Pure Argan Oil but never bothered buying it because of the large price difference between it and the next brand of argan oil (it's $48 for 50 ml).  However, I received a boxed set of her products recently containing small versions of her most popular products, including this famous Argan Oil.  "Luxury with a Conscience" is Josie's motto and this is from her website:
We use pure, Fair Trade Argan Oil, grown and harvested responsibly by co-ops of Moroccan women who earn a living wage. We partner with earth-loving, women-empowering organizations, use eco-friendly packaging, and we never stop striving to improve our products and our impact on the world.
Since the sole ingredient was the same as the other argan oil products I've used before (I reviewed another here), I was curious to see how it would perform and if the price tag was justified.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Review: Michael Todd True Organics Blue Green Algae Toner

I'm often asked why I use so many products during my skincare routine and I have to explain that each item I use really does have a unique purpose.  (Of course I'd rather minimize the time I have to spend on my skin, but alas... I do not have a great complexion and must work hard! ^_^)  Many items contain different ingredients for different functions, but I prefer to use products designed for specific needs, hence why I was skeptical to try out Michael Todd True Organics Blue Green Algae Toner, a product bloggers gave Holy Grail status because it not only removed make-up, it also moisturized, fought off acne, reduced pore size, and brought world peace (just kidding on one of those).

After using the majority of a 250 ml bottle I can say that my overall impression is positive, that's it's an alright product worth repurchasing if I can't find anything better, but it doesn't match the high expectations I formed after seeing all the ecstatic online reviews.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: 100% Pure's Organic Argan Oil

During my quest to continue using more "natural" skincare products, 100% Pure's Organic Argan Oil caught my eye for its one item ingredient list: Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil (can't get any more pure than that!)  The idea of using an oil to moisturize seemed weird at first, but my dry skin was in such need of hydration after overdosing on acne products I decided to go for it.  Adding plant fatty acids to my skin to bolster my moisture barrier also seemed like a good habit to pick up.  The directions indicated I could use argan oil for skin and nails, too, so I figured I could use it for body care instead of my face if I disliked it.

The version I bought came in a semi-opaque glass tube with pump that felt elegant.  The current one still has a hygienic pump but the body is plastic and opaque, making it difficult to guess how much argan oil is left.  I found the pump sturdy but hard to control so the oil spurted out quickly unless I was very careful.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser


Step 2 of my double cleansing process (step 1 = oil cleanser), CeraVe's Foaming Facial Cleanser, came recommended by bloggers for its gentle but effective performance and low pH (~5.5) suitable for maintaining the skin's natural acidity and protective barrier.  I'd heard of Cetaphil and other dermatologist recommended brands for gentle cleansing but knew they were too weak to remove make-up and never seriously considered using them.  Instead I relied on strong foaming cleansers that left me squeaky clean.  However, once I added oil cleansing to my skincare routine, the harsh cleansers were no longer appropriate and I needed something milder to accompany my oil cleanser.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil (Deep Moisture & Moisture)

I started looking into alternatives to foaming cleansers after receiving a sample of cleansing oil.  I had a vague idea oil cleansers were involved in "double cleansing," an Asian skincare trend, but always thought that sounded like overkill (especially for acne-prone skin like mine).  I've never had a prejudice against oils in skincare because I don't believe my skin woes come from insufficient cleaning and subsequent clogged pores.  When I over-cleaned with drying acne products I still managed to keep breaking out :P  (Pretty convinced at this point it's related to hormones and stress)  I don't have an oily skin type and definitely don't consider "mineral oil" or other oils to be taboo the way some bloggers do.  However, I mistakenly assumed double cleansing meant cleaning my face twice in a row and that it would just dry me out.

Side Note: My face may be acne-prone but it's not overly sensitive and won't break out as a reaction to incompatible products.  When I choose to discard something it's usually because I'm not getting desired results, not that I suffered a poor reaction.  At most my troubled skin will just get drier while staying at the same level of "troubledness."

Given the lack of info/directions on the foil packet I had to google a bit but found double cleansing actually involves an oil cleanser followed by a very gentle foam cleanser to erase all make-up and oil traces.  The oil dissolves make-up/dirt to make it easier to remove and the cleanser makes sure nothing is left.  I'm pretty glad I bothered looking up how exactly an oil cleanser should be used because I would have probably applied it to a wet face (wrong move!) and figured it wasn't working.  The trick is to start with a dry face/hands because any hint of water reduces the oil's effectiveness.  Massaging the oil around lets it break down everything and then slowly adding water will emulsify it so that the oil becomes a milky residue that rinses off with more water.  The foam cleanser is then needed to get rid of leftover residue.

Anyway, my reaction to the cleansing oil was so good I decided to purchase one.  After some research I opted for Etude House's Real Art Cleansing Oil because it seemed like an inexpensive experiment if I didn't end up liking it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review: Tonymoly Dr. Tony AC Control Acne Cleansing Foam

I used to rely on American drugstore cleansers like Neutrogena and Clean & Care because they were cheap and accessible.  Over time I found them too drying (especially after I overdid the acne products) and they didn't really deliver in terms of keeping my breakouts away.  Hence, I turned to Asian skincare products with the reasoning that these would be better designed for my Asian skin.  Online research also revealed vast numbers of positive reviews for Asian brands so I figured I had nothing to lose on trying some out. 

I received a sample of Tonymoly's AC Control Acne Foam Cleanser (not to be confused with their regular AC Control Foam Cleanser) and liked it well enough to hunt down the full-sized one on eBay.  Since there aren't too many Asian beauty shops around me I purchase mostly everything online.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Review: 100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream

100% Pure's Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream is by far one of the company's most popular products and one that I've repurchased several times.  It has a simple and short ingredient list but uses "caffeine rich green tea and coffee" to target puffiness and dark circles as well as "anti-aging vitamins, antioxidants, and nourishing rosehip oil" to help with wrinkles and maintain that youthful appearance.

This is the first eye cream I ever bought after I decided to stop dabbing my face lotion around my eyes.  I previously never dealt with dark circles because I love to sleep and have no trouble keeping an early bedtime.  (My mom says as a kid I'd suddenly disappear and she'd find me snoozing in bed already :P)  In college, though, I had more homework and studying to ruin my sleep schedule so I started getting the panda rings.  The need for skincare specific to my saggy eye bags became a priority.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: 100% Pure Carrot Facial Scrub

Carrot Facial Scrub 

Back when I was slowly recovering from overuse of acne products I bought 100% Pure's Carrot Facial Scrub to gently polish away dry skin flakes.  It wasn't enough to just stop using the harsh acne cleansers and lotions.  I had to deal with the depressing aftermath of super sensitive and extremely dry skin.  The horror of washing your face, toweling off and then slowly seeing dry lines and cracks appear on your cheeks.... Even when I only used pure water and no cleansers!  I had zero moisture barrier left over and didn't recover until months later via heavy duty moisturizers.  Before I did, though, I needed an exfoliating agent that would help get rid of my dry flakes without traumatizing my sad complexion even more.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: 100% Pure Green Apple & Cabernet Grape Nourishing Body Creams

Green Apple Nourishing Body Cream         Cabernet Grape Nourishing Body Cream 

I'm combining the reviews for these two body cream moisturizers from 100% Pure because they perform the same, just have different scents.  In addition to Green Apple and Cabernet Grape, you can also try a bunch of other flavors, most of which make you hungry for the real fruit/food :P

The creams claim to "immediately hydrate, soften and feed your skin nutrients for a healthy, glowing complexion." 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Review: 100% Pure Organic Skin Brightening Tonique

       Brightening Tonique

I rarely try only one product line or brand at a time.  I tend to mix it up because specific items from one will catch my eye but definitely not all of them at once.  It's a bit pricey to buy an entire collection just because a company claims the products work best together.  Even if I had a lot of moolah to throw around on skincare goodies I wouldn't bother because I hate the inevitable clutter of unimpressive items you don't want to throw out and yet can't bring yourself to keep using.

I skipped over 100% Pure's Jasmine Green Tea Tonique (even though I had the cleanser) in favor of the Organic Skin Brightening Tonique because I'm a huge fan of citrus scents and this one smelled so much like freshly squeezed orange juice I was tempted to take a swig right there in the store :P

When I bought this tonique (fancy way of saying "toner?") it came in a beautifully solid glass bottle but it's now sold in a boring opaque plastic bottle.  I suppose that cuts down on weight and shipping, but the design back then was much more elegant and purty.  This review will be for the original tonique in the glass bottle.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: 100% Pure Jasmine Green Tea Facial Cleansing Foam

100% Pure

I first encountered 100% Pure in college when I found a local store that lured me in with its bright pastel colors, attractive layout, and shelves of yummy smelling products.  The company advertises itself as environmentally conscious, animal-friendly and promises "no synthetic chemicals, chemical preservatives, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, harsh detergents or any other unhealthy toxins."  Everything in the store smells like food, natural and fruity, but not in an obnoxious perfumed way (Bath & Body... I'm talking to you).  So far I've tried a cleanser, toner, scrub, two body moisturizers, argan oil and their famous caffeine eye cream. 

When I started looking into 100% Pure I was mainly trying to find healthier skincare products that could help my dry, acne-prone skin.  Against my better judgment I stuck too long with overly harsh products (booo Murad) and needed to switch to gentler products.  I figured less chemicals in my body was a positive thing and after all the aggressive acne treatments I needed to give my beat-up skin a break.

The first product I bought was the Jasmine Green Tea Facial Cleansing Foam because almost every ingredient listed was a flower, plant, grass or fruit. 

Jasmine Green Tea Facial Cleansing Foam