Category Archives: Serums

Another top 5 repurchases

2017 and 2018 have been kind to me on the professional and personal front, after the annulis horribilis that is 2016. In skincare too, I have been particularly lucky that I found a number of products that I can foresee myself repurchasing again and again. So 3 years after my initial post (2015), I think its time to do another 5 repurchase.

Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Cream

Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Intensive Care Cream (Review)

This is no doubt the best find of 2017 for me. The cream is rich, emollient and very comforting for nightly use, especially for dehydrated skin. This cream is exactly what I have been looking for in a night time moisturizer, and I am not switching anytime soon.

Naruko Tea Tree Purifying Essential Oil

The earlier part of this year has been marred by outbreaks of pimples. In my teenage years I have used products containing benzoyl peroxide, but I have not touched that particular ingredient in close to 10 years, as I only suffer from mild cases of acne. The Naruko tea tree line contains 15% tea tree oil (higher than the recommended minimum of 2.5% to 10%) which has anti-bacterial properties and 2% salicylic acid to assist with the chemical exfoliation. It works well enough that I am not straying yet.

On the other hand, I am terrible at dishing our acne-fighting advice as I get them once in a blue moon.

Melano CC Intensive Spot Serum (Review)

The best ascorbic acid serum by far. Mind you, I have used some expensive whitening stuff like Guerlain (here) and Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solutions (not reviewed) and products made famous by internet i.e. OST C20 Serum (featured here), but nothing works as well as this does. No painful burning or tingling upon first application, small nozzle, little exposure to oxidation. What more could I ask for?

Biore UV Kids Nobi Nobi Suncream

It is weird that a children’s sunscreen is my favourite to use on a daily basis? My skin has been moving towards the dry end of the spectrum steadily and my old favourite Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel is not enough for me anymore. I like the creamy finish and the slight stickiness of the Nobi Nobi Suncream. Plus, it is yellow! How happy can that be?

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin™ Skin-Friendly Nanoskin Sheet Mask (Review)

For a skincare junkie, I am not exactly a major fan of sheet masks. It is time-consuming and I find much of it very standard and gimmicky. This ceramide based mask reviewed here, however, is a godsend for dry to normal skin types. They have recent reformulated the mask so now it comes in 25ml instead of 30ml, and the serum is a lot less oily and more gel like. I still like the formulation but I wish they’d give me more serum.

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Sulwhasoo First Activating Serum

If I ever develop brand loyalty, it will be for the lovely Hanyul, which from what I see is a more affordable hanbang alternative to Sulwhasoo aimed at the Korean domestic market only. As a sucker for the rare and unavailable stuff, I have been way more into Hanyul than the much more internationally available Sulwhasoo. An exception has been made for the Sulwhasoo Overnight Revitalizing Mask (featured here) which I love dearly, as Hanyul does not have a sleeping pack that I enjoy (not since the Rich Effect Overnight Mask anyway).

The Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is a beloved product from the Sulwhasoo brand that is in the HG list of so many on the internet. While I was still using the Hanyul Optimizing Serum (read review), I’ve read that it is a dupe for the way more expensive FCAS, in that it is a fermented serum to be used right after cleansing, and purports to aid in the absorption of the subsequent skincare items in the routine. When I had excess expiring miles, I jumped at the chance and redeemed two bottles.

It comes with a plethora of plant extracts. For hanbang formulations I generally go by the experience more than anything in the ingredients list, as hanbang ingredients are not as well researched as the star ingredients like Vitamins A/B/C/E and the exfoliants like AHAs/BHAs.

Ophiopogon Japonicus Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract, Water, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Glycerin, Betaine, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Seed Extract, Polygonatum Officinale Rhizome/Root Extract, Lilium Tigrinum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Extract, Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flower Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Adenophora Stricta Root Extract, Lycium Chinense Root Extract, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-Yuen Seed Extract, Angelica Tenuissima Root Extract, Honey, Astragalus Membranaceus Root Extract, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Natto Gum, Beta-Glucan, Sodium Hyaluronate, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Zizyphus Jujuba Fruit Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Peg/Ppg-17/6 Copolymer, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Bis-Peg-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Potassium Carbomer, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Dextrin, Cellulose Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan), Phenyl Trimethicone, Propanediol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Propylene Glycol, Disodium Edta, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

The serum comes in the form of a brownish gel-like liquid with a herbal fragrance, very similar to the Hanyul. It is light and layers nicely underneath all moisturisers and sunscreens that I have tried.

I’ve given it a few months of use and I can safely say that it did not do anything for my skin. I’ve tried halting its use for weeks and I have observed no difference to my skin.

To be fair, though, my regular routine is working great and I have no complaints at all. Credits go to the actives Melano CC (read review), Estée Lauder ANR (featured here) and a good emollient moisturiser Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Cream (read review). Moreover,  is not a fair comparison to the Hanyul Optimizing Serum (read review) as my skin is in a pretty much optimal state right now.

So peeps, if you haven’t found your HG serum, go ahead and give the sample or trial sizes of the FCAS a try. Otherwise, I will be giving this expensive serum a miss.

 

First Post of 2018: Intoxicated Skincare Routine

I’m generally not into drinks–I’m a closet homebody and I love holing up with a good read. But for one reason or another, I found myself drinking quite frequently recently. But alcohol drives my skin (plus my sleep cycle, my weight and my wits) absolutely bonkers. You know it your skin gets tired and sallow the next day. So with my 1-year experience, here is my guide to getting skincare done while you are at different stages of intoxication.

Japan Oils (m)

1. Cleanse, Double Cleanse

You’ve puked more times than you can count. In the cab, in the lift, you don’t know where else. Deep down you know you’ve been an utter embarrassment in front of everyone (you can’t be arsed to care). You’re still mostly upright. Leaning against the bathroom wall is a comfortable position. You don’t want to move (move).

You probably have layers of makeup and falsies (Ewwww). Get those off with a cleansing balm or oil. You probably forget how to emulsify oils properly. Just don’t fall asleep at your sink and don’t gouge your eyes out.

If you are still upright by the end, reach for that low pH cleanser. Don’t whine, you bought it for the convenience. Pump it once and the bubbles are readymade. Muck the foam around your face and wash it off.

Now you can fall into the puddle that you have made on the bathroom floor and go to sleep.

Be ready to mop off the mess of oils, foam and your tears of regret from the floor the next morning.

Estee Lauder ANR

2. Potent Anti-oxidant Serum

You’ve had four drinks. You made it home on your own in a cab. You almost puked (it is thanks to that terrible driver), but you kept your dinner in. But you had too much work and too little sleep in the past week (month, year, years) and you feel like you can sleep for 48 hours straight. You don’t want to look at yourself in the mirror because Asian flush is ugly and you’re already your worst judge.

Clean your face, you’ve done it when you were dead drunk, you can do it now.

As much as you love alcohol, your skin hates it. Apologise. Feed it the clinically tested and scientifically proven anti-oxidant serum. For goodness sake, remember to screw the cap tight afterwards. It is worth 8 hours of painstaking and sometimes mind-numbing work and you don’t want light and oxidation to get to it before it gets to your skin.

Important reminder: Stay away from any acid at this point. Can you trust yourself not to get any of the pH 3.8 stuff into your eyeballs? I don’t trust you when you say yes, because drunk people say yes to everything. Save it for the next morning when you open your eyes with a splitting headache.

Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Cream

3. Emollient Moisturiser

You’re still up? Good! Time to seal off the expensive serum. Get that jar of moisturiser that you’ve been buying on repeat this year. It is a jar of buttery goodness, and it reminds you of all the delicious, fatty food you’ve sworn off for the sake of your coronary arteries (it is your bloody figure, really, who are you kidding). Slap it on and let it melt into your skin like a piece of tender pork belly on your tongue. Arhhhhh.

Sulwhasoo Overnight Mask (m)

4. Sleeping Pack

If you’re at this step, you have only had two drinks, or the alcohol has worn off. You either feel terribly lonely or lightheaded from the lovely conversation. Either way, the sleeping pack fits because it is an additional layer of occlusive. It feels like another layer of warm blanky on your skin and you feel cocooned. The sleeping pack smells like ginseng, ginger and you find the medicinal smell comforting.

You can fall into bed and wrap yourself in the real warm blanky now.

And then maybe you can take out your phone and start writing crap on your WordPress app. ೕ(˃̵ᴗ˂̵ ๑)

(For clarification of doubt, Scenario 1 is imagined 😉

UPDATE: Japan 2017 Haul

I am back home from Japan! (*≧▽≦)ノシ)) It is the first ever solo trip for me and surprisingly I am quite well adjusted to being alone with my thoughts. The only time where I hated being alone was at Aoikigahara, where I was hiking in deafening silence for 2 hours. (O∆O)

First up, some shocks:

  • I didn’t manage to get any Chifure products ‧º·(˚ ˃̣̣̥⌓˂̣̣̥ )‧º·˚ I had far less time than I thought for shopping, and Chifure isn’t popular enough to be found in every drugstore
  • Outside of the cities, drugstores aren’t so commonplace after all. At least, it is not easy to get to it with walking and public transport
  • Best part of the trip was getting in touch with my nose again, and trying out the the slightly more niche perfumes at Isetan Shinjuku as well as Ginza
  • Fell in love with the Comme des Garçons Incense series (Kyoto, in particular, is a masterpiece to my nose)
  • I stuck closely to my shopping list; I am proud of myself!!  Have a look below:

Old Faves

My original shopping list!

I bought all of them except the Chifures.

Japanese Toners

  • Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion – Found it in a limited edition bottle so I couldn’t resist getting one.
  • Hada Labo Premium Lotion – The supposed more hydrating and plumping version of the original SHA Lotion, I got it on the very last day when it is clear that I don’t have time to look around for my favourite version of hyaluronic acid – Chifure Essence (Review).
  • Kanebo Dew Lotion – The Dew Lotion was recommended by a Japanese colleague who has beautiful skin.
  • Kikumasamune Moist Lotion

Cleansers & Sunscreens

No surprises in this department at all, I have tried and loved all of them:

  • Refill for Kose Softymo Light Cleansing Oil
  • Refill for Perfect Watery Oil
  • Biore UV Nobi Nobi SPF50/PA+++
  • Biore Perfect Milk SPF50/PA+++

Serge Lutens

I was very intent on getting Sa Majesté la Rose or Chergui when I walked into the Shinjuku store, but I ended up falling in love with La fille de Berlin (“The Girl from Berlin”) upon the very first sniff. Amber, rose, musk and woods reminded me of Amouage Lyric, which is one of my ultimate favorite perfume, ever (I wrote about how much I loved it three years ago here). While Lyric is a lady, LFdB is half a wild beast and half a Shakespearean tragedy.

(On the other hand, the first hour of Féminité du Bois is a massive turnoff. It is in the same scrubber league as the first 30 minutes of A La Nuit. Both are mostly universally loved but I cannot stand them O.o)

Brightening Skincare: Shiseido Haku Melanofocus 3D

Ladies and gents, I’ve realised that 2017 is the year of brightening skincare for me. I’m seriously going hard at all the sun spots. Today I’m going to review another product that I have given almost a year to test. (I popped it into the fridge immediately after getting it, and I forgot about it for a while フフフ)

Shiseido Haku Melanofocus 3D came to prominence around 10 years ago, and has gone through a number of reformulations. It claims to prevent the formation of melanin, improve uneven skin tone, fade freckles, acne marks and minimizes dark spots caused by sun exposure. It also claims to restore skin damage caused by UV, pollution or other environmental factors.

What is contains:

HAKU contains 2 active ingredients: 4MSK (potassium 4-methoxysalicylate) which is also used in other SHISEIDO brands. This includes SHISEIDO White Lucent range, Revital Whitening range and AUPRES range. It claims to work by diminishing the activity of enzyme tyrosinase to reduce melanin production. Another include Tranexamic acid is a well researched and effective skin brightening agent. (See the full ingredients list on CosDNA).

How I use it

I apply this day and night after cleansing and toning. It is a scentless, light cream gel which is thicker than most serums, but absorbs quickly into the skin. At night, I apply a second layer on my cheekbones where I have some sunspots and freckles.

It is a totally different breed from HABA White Lady (review) and SK-II GeneOptics Spot Essence (review), having different active ingredients, textures and all. But one thing is similar–you can barely notice any tingling or citrus smells commonly associated with brightening products. Also, the effect is barely noticeable in the short run, and most of the time they seem to do nothing at all. It is only with consistent use that one day, you wake up and notice glowing skin.

The one drawback that I notice is that it can get oily when used during the day, as the texture is thicker than most traditional serums. It has been relegated to only night time use.

Verdict

All in all, I am very pleased with the HAKU for overall brightening and to get glowing skin. But for spot fading, it has not done much at all (so far, nothing did. HAHA). At the hefty price tag of ~¥7,000 (US$70), I am not going to repurchase this anytime soon.

A Week of Repairing Skincare

When I just returned from my trip to Switzerland, MY HEART WAS FULL (´ ▽`).。o♡ but MY SKIN WAS TERRIBLE (⌣_⌣”).

Despite taking a small army of skincare items, plus protective gear like hats and sunglasses with me, I still suffered from redness (a combination of the cold, sunburns and windburns) and the feeling of skin dryness and tightening is almost constant. So when I returned, it was an uphill battle to get my skin back to the pink of health.

Here are a few things I did to get my skin to calm the F down.

The ceramidin mask is pretty awesom. It is also the most expensive mask that I have ever repurchased. 😦

1. Masking, masking, masking

A huge problem I had was the inability to retain moisture. As soon as I stepped out of the shower, there was an uncomfortable tautness in the skin. The answer to that, I found, was using a mask every single day. Be it regular glycerin-propylene glycol-hyaluronic acid type of mask or the high end ones that claims to do everything under the sun, it is the consistency that counts the most.

I have been enjoying the JAYJUN Baby Pure Shining MaskDr Morita Hyaluronic Acid Essence Face Mask, and my absolute fave by far DR. JART+ Ceramidin Mask (review), a mask full of watery and oily goodness.

As for the mornings, I have no time or patience for masks, but I was sure to use Chifure Essence (review) or any other hydrating essences.

Repairing Skincare 02

Some high end stuff in the mix!

2. Mositurise

Following the mask, I moisturise immediately. Without a layer of emollients as well as occlusives to keep the water in, I find that my skin returns to the previous state of uncomfortable tautness. In mere minutes I can feel my skin shriveling up like an old man, seriously.

I have been enjoying: HABA Squalane (review), which isn’t occlusive enough to replace a face cream, Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Intensive Care Cream (review) absolute fave, Hanyul Seo Ri Tae Skin Refining Cream (review) for the day time under sunscreen, and SK-II RNA Power Cream.

On the first few days, I’ve also worn the Sulwhasoo Overnight Revitalizing Mask (review) on top of the cream as yet another layer of occlusive.

I had to take a photo with these alliums (basically flowering onions, I think?) I love having fun with the styling of the photos on this blog XP

3. Careful with the AHAs

I packed a BHA along with me for the trip, because AHAs can lead to sun sensitivity and I don’t want it to be a problem, even though I touch up on skin screen almost religiously. But as I have normal to dry skin, AHAs always made a lot more difference to my skin than BHAs ever did, so I was happy to be back home and reunited with the Cosrx AHA Whitehead Power Liquid.

The thing is, AHAs have kinda stung for my entire life. Even after 5 years of regularly using AHAs, it hasn’t gotten any better and it is something that I’ve come to accept and anticipate with any AHA usage. With my skin in a highly sensitised state, I only applied the AHA once in the week, and left it at that. Gradually, it went back to 3 times a week, which is how I normally use it.

Really short routine, but this is exactly what I used for the first 2 nights when my skin was at my worst.

4. Bring out all the anti-oxidants

I think everybody has a favourite serum for, you know, general anti-aging. If not, I wish you loads of luck and you can click through my Serums and Skin Treatment reviews for ideas. For me, my one true love has to be Estée Lauder ANR, which is my oldest cosmetic love. I don’t exactly know what is working for me, maybe it is the Vitamin A, but I always have a 100ml on hand, even though most of the time I’m trying out other serums. But during this period, I have turned to those that have consistently worked well for me.

Serums that I’m using now: Estée Lauder ANR and Melano CC Medicated Intensive Spot Correcting Serum (review). If you have dabbled in skincare for a while now you’d have your own faves too, just make sure you stick real close to those tried and tested formulas, rather than popping yet another serum that you’ve never tried open.

What I Used To Do

I’ve actually had loads of experience with dryness and sensitivity, and I’ve mostly stuck to the routine.

Back in 2014, I’ve tried a hell lot more, as seen in my post, A State of Emergency. Some things include:

  • Manuka honey mask – which I most commonly use when I have both sensitive skin and pimples, I cannot vouch for its efficacy, but it is a delicious mask 😉
  • Manuka honey + cinnamon mask – Again, delicious mask, does it do anything at all? ><
  • EPO, flaxseed oil, vitamin supplements – Nope, haven’t done any supplements in a while now, but I’m a lot healthier than I was back in 2014 (exercise & eating well. I’m still not getting enough sleep).

You can go to my old post and have a laugh (but seriously its not TOO bad) =.=

Brightening Skincare: SK-II Genoptics Spot Essence

Hey lovely friends, I have a very important review for you today.

I have always wished that there are more genuine reviews of high-end skincare products out there. If we are parting with a significant chunk of our money, we should be armed with better information than we have.

Many brands collaborate with bloggers for product launches or social media advertorials and endorsements, which can present as a conflict of interest. Many of these relationships are not clearly disclosed and we (consumers) may believe these blog posts, tweets, Instas to be independent statements without the necessary information. In many cases, it is abundantly clear that someone received a free sample for review or is paid to write about it (seriously, you know what I mean). But there are also those sneaky ones that eventually lead to court cases for misrepresentation.

Anyhow, I find myself very cynical when I see the same words on blogs that are straight out from the media kits. I gave up on searching for reviews on this batch of SK-II products before I bought them. If I want genuine reviews, I will do it myself. Here it is! 😉

Ingredients List

Water, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate (i.e. Pitera), Butylene Glycole, Cyclopentasiloxane, Niacinamide, Triethylhexanoin, Glycerin,Pentylene Glycol, Nylon-12, Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, Inositol, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Boron Nitride, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Panthenol, PEG-20, Sorbitane Cocoate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimenthicone Crosspolymer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-11 Methyl Ether Dimethicone, Polyacrylamide, Laureth-7, Benzyl Alcohol, Aminomethyl Propanol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Hexyldecanol, Sodium Benzoate, Xanthan Gum, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Laminaria Saccharina Extract, Tocopherol, Zea Mays Oil/Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Methicone, CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), CI 75130 (Beta-Carotene).

To assess the ingredients list, I looked at the first 15 ingredients as well as their function. Why the first 15? Well, ingredients are listed in descending order, starting with the largest amount in the product. If I look at more than 15, I’d have lost you, my readers and probably myself too.

Water

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate – The star ingredient in all SK-II skincare. There is some research demonstrating that galactomyces ferment filtrate has a protective effect on the skin barrier, and helps to prevent damage to the integrity of the skin barrier.

Butylene Glycol – Commonly-used ingredient that has multiple functions in cosmetics, including as a texture enhancer. It’s similar to propylene glycol, but has a lighter texture.

Cyclopentasiloxane – Silicone based skin-conditioning agent

Niacinamide – Aka vitamin B3, helps to even skin tone, reduce fine lines and dullness. It is very high up in the list, which I am happy about.

Triethylhexanoin – Skin conditioning

Pentylene Glycol – Solvent and skin-replenishing agent, much like butylene glycol (above) and propylene glycol

Nylon-12 – absorbent, texture enhancer and mattifyer

Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate – Skin conditioning, occlusive

Inositol – A sugar (which are generally humectants)

Polymethylsilsesquioxane – I’ve no idea what this does.

Boron Nitride – Skin conditioning, oil absorbant

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride – Skin-Conditioning Agent, occlusive

Panthenol – Alcohol form of the B vitamin pantothenic acid. Panthenol is used in skincare products as a humectant because of its ability to attract and hold moisture.

PEG-20 – Humectan, solvent

Of the first 15 ingredients, I only find pitera and niacinamide interesting. While I understand that a good formulation is more than just a smattering of actives, if I’m paying $200 for this 50 ml of essence, I want more bang for the buck.

Packaging and Texture

The Spot Essence comes in an elegant bottle. It is so beautiful that I put in more than the normal effort to give it a photoshoot to do it justice. The dropper is initially delightful as it dispenses the right amount for the whole face, but is absolute shit after a while. When I am halfway through the bottle, the dropper refused to pick up anything and I resorted to pouring out from the bottle or allow the Serum to drip down my palms from the sides of the dropper. It gets frustrating!

The serum itself is runny and milky. When applied, it leaves a matt finish (the mattifying effect of nylon-12 in action here). It works well under moisturisers and sunscreens, with no pilling observed for all combination of products.

DIS DROPPER DOESNT WORK

How I Use It

Toner > Fermented Essence > Serum > Oil > Moisturiser

I use it both day and night, as niacinamide, which appears to be the only active ingredient for brightening, is stable in heat and UV. I have not observed intense brightening that I have with the Rohto Melano CC Serum (review), but I did wake up to nicely moisturised and well-rested skin. This is especially on the days where I brought out the big guns and used the Spot Essence in conjunction with HABA Squalane (review), Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Cream (review) and Sulwhasoo Overnight Revitalising Mask (review).

However, it is not as ground breaking as the first time that I’ve used Estee Lauder ANR (review).

After the initial period of testing, I am now using it solely in the mornings (and saving the Melano CC aka ascorbic acid for night time).

Who It Is For

Not me. One purchase for trying is great, but I don’t have that much money to burn regularly on pitera and niacinamide.

If you have the budget, by all means get it. It is a decent splurge and it looks gorgeous on your vanity. 😉