Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence

After trying out Benton's Aloe Propolis Line without any negative reactions I added their Snail Bee High Content Essence into my skincare routine (both day and night).  My dry skin has inched closer and closer to being "normal" during these past few years and I wanted to try an "essence" product to to see if this would give me that additional boost of moisture I was lacking as well as control my acne-prone skin.

Asian skincare collections regularly include products that are unfamiliar to Westerners.  When I first started exploring different types of skincare routines I had serious trouble differentiating what an essence, serum, ampoule, etc accomplished and was clueless about the order in which to use these products.  Thankfully the blogging community came to my rescue and I found ample information on where to start.  Even though I'm a latecomer to skincare as a hobby/lifestyle, I don't mind benefiting from others' expertise and experience in helping me figure things out. =D

The gist is the thinnest layers (toner, serum ,etc) should be applied first, followed by successively heavier products (essence--> gel/lotion ---> cream moisturizer).  It's not necessary to use everything as I modify based on day vs night or according to the weather.  Certain products are never skipped (toner, BHA, light moisturizer) but others can be optional for me (acne treatments,serums or heavier moisturizer) depending on my needs.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Review: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

In addition to their Aloe BHA Toner (reviewed here), my recent Benton haul included the Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel, a gel moisturizer designed to be used after essence and before cream moisturizer in a skincare routine.  I included it in my shopping cart for several reasons:

a) Instead of another cream, I wanted to try a gel moisturizer that could be used alone during daytime or layered under a thicker moisturizer at night.

b) Finding compatible serums, essences, moisturizers, etc. can be tough if the textures don't like to mix (for example, argan oil + everything) so products from the same line should play well together as I proceed with each layer/step of a lengthy skincare routine.

c) The short ingredient list has zero acne/irritant flags!

d) I got a discount :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: Benton Aloe BHA Toner

Benton Cosmetics is a Korean skincare company started in 2011 that prides itself on using natural and high-quality ingredients in their products but at an affordable price.  I read many favorable online reviews of their products before deciding to introduce Benton's Aloe BHA Skin Toner into my daily routine.

Without "parabens, mineral oil, alcohol, benzophenone, synthetic preservatives, steroids, artificial flavors [and] artificial colors" this toner is chock full of actives (aloe leaf water/juice instead of plain water, 0.5% BHA, hyaluronic acid, snail secretion filtrate) and amazingly no real flags on CosDNA.

Given my recent success with BHA, I was happy to see the exfoliating ingredient included in this product.  I had tried another hydrating toner (Michael Todd True Organics Blue Green Algae Toner reviewed here) but wanted to explore more hydrating options and this product pinged my curiosity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Drying Lotion 

Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion is one of the most well-known pink spot treatments for acne that consists of a sediment + liquid combo you pick up with a Q-tip and apply onto blemishes overnight.  Given it's long history of positive reviews and my never-ending willingness to try new acne treatments I decided not to let this stone stay unturned.  I bought it in a kit with a few other Mario Badescu products last year (I reviewed the buffering lotion here) and after using the majority of a bottle I've decided it delivers somewhat for my troubled skin but falls short of my expectations so I don't plan to repurchase.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion


In my late teens & early 20s my skin took a nosedive from stress, poor sleep and inconsistent diet.  My blemishes were mainly small bumps and the type with whiteheads that resolved relatively fast with OTC treatments or by (I know, I know...) being popped & drained.  Occasionally I'd get cystic acne on my lower cheeks, the deep and painful type that lingered for weeks because they had no whiteheads that could be popped.  They stayed around for ages and couldn't really be hidden with make-up, either, because of their large, elevated appearance.  These cystic bumps were awful but so infrequent I didn't bother searching for targeted treatments, just better make-up techniques.

In my late 20s I finally got most of the smaller bumps and whitehead blemishes under control through BHA serums, cutting dairy out of my diet and a healthier lifestyle.  However, the cystic bumps remained and after trading school stress for work stress, I found they even periodically dominated the lower half of my face in really disruptive breakouts.  It seemed like a crap deal to me that graduating school didn't relieve my skincare problems so I finally motivated myself to investigate what products could actually help cystic acne.

Mario Badescu's Buffering Lotion came up frequently in my search and had fairly good reviews so I decided to give it a shot.  My conclusion after a year of use is that it helps a significant amount but isn't quite holy grail status for my particular skin.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Review: The Face Shop Aqua Drop Pack (Baby Face Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Drop Pack)


I finished two tubes of Lioele's Waterdrop Sleeping Pack (reviewed here) before I decided to try a similar product by another popular Korean brand, The Face Shop.  Since internet vendors are more accessible than physical stores (especially for international brands) I always shop for Asian skincare products online.  With so many different websites to choose from I can also quickly price compare and be sure I'm getting good deals.  Depending on the internet's whims, pricing varies a huge amount for the same item and I often end up paying different amounts for the same product each time I re-order.  As a result, if I feel like the current price is too much compared to a previous purchase, I am more likely to try something new.  Hence, my resulting review of The Face Shop's Aqua Drop Pack (aka Babyface Hyaluronic Acid Aqua Drop Pack).

The Face Shop website features the second longer name but the shorter one is on the front of the package (longer one is on the back).  "Babyface" is the product line because there are 3 more similarly designed packs available.  I found this version of a sleeping pack just as good as Lioele's version and maybe a tiny bit more preferable because of the citrus scent, my favorite!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Review: Paula's Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA


The next Paula's Choice product I tried out, the RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA, seemed like a logical next step after such a great result from her 2% BHA (reviewed here).  Even though there was a stronger 10% AHA available I decided to buy the lower concentration and ease myself into using this second type of exfoliating product.  BHA is supposed to help with acne but AHA can target wrinkles and hyperpigmentation more effectively so having a two-step acid treatment in my skincare routine seemed like a good plan.  I didn't want to overdo it and cause my skin to peel off so went for a daily AHA treatment rather than the stronger, once-a-week 10% AHA.  There are different types of AHAs available out there but I picked a glycolic acid because of its smaller molecular size and superior penetration compared to the other popular lactic acid.

Once again, like with Paula's other RESIST acne treatment (BHA 9), I skipped the trial size and went straight to the full-sized version, something I regret doing because of the mixed results I had.

Review: Paula's Choice RESIST BHA 9 Treatment


After my resounding success with Paula's 2% BHA Liquid (reviewed here), I was certain her RESIST BHA 9 Treatment would be a sure bet.  I waited for a sale and eagerly bought this acne spot treatment since I was going through a particularly rough time with breakouts on my lower cheeks and chin.  In addition to tackling breakouts, this product claims to deal with "anti-aging, blackheads, enlarged pores, keratosis pilaris & wrinkles."  I'm not worried about aging yet (thank goodness!) but certainly have blackheads and pores galore.  Paula also claims her RESIST BHA 9 can "calm redness and fades marks from past breakouts," major skin problems I regularly deal with.

The blogsphere looked favorably upon this product and even though it was pricier than I liked, I willingly bought the full-sized version (0.3 oz, which really isn't that much) without trying a sample first.  Unfortunately, this was a mistake on my part because the results have been disappointingly blah and I've learned a pricey lesson in the importance of using trial sizes to determine whether a product is right for me. =(

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Review: Lioele Waterdrop Sleeping Pack


I associate "sleeping packs" with Asian skincare because I've never heard that phrase used to describe any Western products.  The rough equivalent would probably be face masks, but those are usually heavier, more opaque things that make me think of Kabuki masks O_O.  Having tried a few sleeping packs I tend to consider them more like gel moisturizers that are marketed as overnight treatments but can actually be used during daytime, too.

Lioele's Waterdrop Sleeping Pack is a popular version I ran across on PrettyandCute a few years ago.  I was taken in by the interesting water droplet texture the gel was supposed to dissolve into upon application and since the ingredient list was surprisingly free of any acne flags I decided to give it a shot.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: Mizon Multi Function Formula Snail Repair Eye Cream


I don't usually get too invested in researching and trying out eye creams because my eyes are not a particularly troubled area on my face.  Sure, I get fine lines, dark circles and puffiness but it's really my breakouts and hyperpigmentation that drive my skincare adventures.  It's only lately I've noticed increased eye wrinkles (boo hoo) and so finally feel the need to pay them more attention.

Snail products are pretty popular now (especially in Asia) and the positive online reviews for this seemingly weird ingredient spurred me on to give Mizon's Snail Repair Eye Cream a chance.  The 80% snail infiltrate assured me I was getting a lot of the active ingredient and the product claim that its EGF (epidermal growth factor) would also brighten skin & reduce wrinkles seemed like nice bonuses.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil

I may be a cleansing oil convert but I haven't actually tried that many varieties.  A little goes so far I don't need to repurchase often and my personal rule is to finish up a skincare product before trying a new one of the same family (unless it's hand cream =).  The few times I break this rule are when the items smell bad, cause a weird reaction, etc. but for the most part I'm able to keep my spending under control with this method. (Go me!)

While I was happy with my Etude House Real Art cleansing oil (reviewed here) I knew after using it up I'd switch to a local brand for more convenient shopping and faster shipping.  I've also been toying with the idea of switching to fragrance-free skincare items when possible just in case it contributes to my breakouts.  Clinique claims to be "the first ever dermatologist-created, allergy-tested, 100% fragrance-free collection of beauty products ever marketed" and their Sephora exclusive Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil
 is a highly rated product so pretty much an easy purchase decision.

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.