Category Archives: Toners

PM Skincare Routines (Part I): All Out Spa Night

The last time I wrote about my skincare routine was back in 2014!!! D: Going back to read it makes to rotfl because I used Cetaphil!!! Sorry, I’ve let this blog rot for far too long, an update is due.

Thing is, I don’t have a single routine. I have an entire range of products and I mix and match everyday. The routine can range from 10 products to 3 products, all depending on how much time I have and how vain I feel. So here’s a selection of some of the night time routines:

  1. The all out spa night routine (below)
  2. The lazy night routine (I’ll write later!)
  3. The zombie night routine (I’ll write later!)
  4. The sensitive emergency routine (I’ll write later!)

I’m only sticking to night time routines here, because they are more exciting. More time and do weird things to your face, and you can get away with layering more products. I might get around to write my morning routine eventually.

(Take note that the steps matter more than the featured products, because the products can easily change).

1. The All Out Spa Night Routine

Spa Routine Part 1

Steps: Oil Cleanser > Foaming Cleanser

  • Oil Cleanser: Can I confess that I have never tried cleansing balms before? I have nothing against them but I find that oil cleansers work well enough for me, and they come with pumps so I find them extra convenient. I’ve been sticking to the Senka Perfect Watery Oil because I have a few refills, but there are many other Japanese oil cleansers that work well. An oil cleanser is a must because I wear sunscreen daily
  • Foaming Cleanser: I still haven’t found a cleanser that I truly love. I am currently using up the Kose Softymo Washing Foam but I’m looking for other alternatives.

Steps: Exfoliating Toner > Fermented Essence > Eye Cream > Serum > Face Mask > Moisturiser > Sleeping Pack / Facial Oil > Lip Balm

Spa Routine Part 2

  • Exfoliating Toner: This step used to be an AHA mask or AHA treatment, but ever since Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner came along it has become AHA/BHA toner. I am currently feeling infinite affection for Mizon because the toner has treated me sooo well, and I have this urge to try more products from this brand. (But then again, I remember the mediocrity that was Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream…) I might try for an AHA/BHA treatment in this step in the future, but the toner is working splendidly right now.
  • Fermented Essence: Estée Lauder Micro Essence, a Western variation of SK-II FTE. Many cheaper alternatives are also available from many Korean brands, including Secret Key FTE (review), IOPE Bio Essence (review). I am unlikely to repurchase both the ME and FTE unless they are heavily discounted because I really want to try a hand at the numerous cheaper alternatives from Korean brands.
  • Eye Cream: SK-II RNA Power Eye Cream. I am still not very convinced on the formulation of eye creams. While we know that the skin around the eyes are thinner and that there are no sebum glands in the under-eyes, there is no consensus on how eye creams should be formulated to accommodate for the differences.
    For the past 3 years, I have not been using eye creams. My last one was actually Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye (review) back in 2014. Subsequently I have used my regular face cream on my under-eyes as well. A recent addition is Elizabeth Arden Eye Capsules (featured here), which is essentially too light to be a serum. I have been using SK-II for 2 weeks, and currently withhold my opinion.

Spa Routine Part 3

  • Serum: Varies, I have a number of serums in rotation and I’ll choose based on my concerns. Right now, I’m working on my second tube of Melano CC Serum (review).
  • Face Mask: Varies with what I have on hand. Been loving the Kracie Hadabisei 3D Face Mask (featured here), which fits GREAT.

  • Moisturiser: I am currently finishing up the Kose Moisture Repair Cream YAY! I do like the moisturiser but I’m really looking forward to trying other alternatives.
  • Sleeping Pack: COSRX Rice Mask is the lightest of the sleeping packs that I own, so it fits best in a routine as long as this.
  • Lip Balm: A tub of Vaseline Lip Therapy Aloe. You can tell I’m not excited about lip balms.

That is all!

One last thing, if you wear eye make up, you should stick a separate eye makeup remover to the very beginning of the routine before oil cleanser. I haven’t been wearing eye make up for ages so I totally forgot about that step.


On reviewing samples vs. full sized products

So far I have refrained from reviewing products based on sample or travel-size products, for the simple fact that it is hard to gauge the effectiveness of a product from simply a week’s usage.

Some reviews are simple to do—breaking out into cystic acne after the first night indicates a product is a poor fit. But other are complicated than that. Some may seem totally ordinary, but take special circumstance to appreciate them like the IOPE Bio Essence (read review). Some doesn’t irritate the skin upon the first few usage, but over the long-term offers no benefits, like the Sooryehan Red Ginseng Juice Cream (read review). The main thing is—it takes time to see if a product is working, and to do a comprehensive review, and surely surviving on one or two samples isn’t the way to go?

The History of Whoo Travel Set

At this point, though, I am re-thinking my position, because of travel-sized sample that I can see almost an immediate effect with. I received these history of Whoo samples when I purchased a full-sized Myeong-Ui-Hyang Secret Court Cream last year. Recently, after switching to the Hanyul Rich Effect White Powder Serum, a few minor bumps appeared on my forehead and cheeks. It’s nothing major, but I did stop for a while to use up these samples, and you know what, they’re really good!

The history of Whoo In Yang Balancer: The texture is heavier, slightly closer to the Japanese-style of toners that need to be patted in rather than the Western, water-like toners that requires a cotton pad. The fragrance is strong, more like manufactured scent than natural herbs, but I like it. This is very very hydrating and I enjoyed using this in the mornings, right below a BB cream or primer.

The history of Whoo In Yang Lotion: The emulsion in this line. I’m not too fond of emulsions, which are between the textures of serums and creams. It’s such a “neither here nor there” product that I find it easy to eliminate from my skincare. If you are a fan of emulsions, you should like this one, but to my biased self there is nothing too spectacular about it.

The history of Whoo Gongjinhyang Qi & Jin Essence: The serum of this line, and my favorite product of this lot. It is excellent at hydration boosting and also giving the overall glow to my skin.

The history of Whoo Gongjinhyang Qi & Jin Eye Cream: Like emulsions, it is easy to eliminate eye creams from my routine. This is moisturizing for the under-eye area, but isn’t really worth the hassle of getting another tub.

Each product is used separately for around two week and my flare up have calmed down sufficiently for me to go for another try at the Hanyul serum. Excellent, excellent stuff.

Take my words with a pinch of salt, I honestly still think a week’s usage is not sufficient to get an overview of a product. For now my conclusion is that this is a line of products worth taking a closer look with a full-size.

Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence

_MG_5482E copy

The another dupe product, but unlike the IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning (read review), Secret Key is very obvious about being a copycat. The old red and white box packaging is the same as SK II, and I’ve read somewhere that SK II was originally supposed to stand for Secret Key. The font and packaging is really similar as well.

The product claims to be better than the famous SK II Facial Treatment Essence, as it is sans paraben while SK II does. I have not tried SK II before, so I can only compare it to the Bio Essence. I am more extravagant while using the Secret Key, since it is so cheap, and literally soaked each sheet of cotton pad, while I’m more careful with the Bio Essence.

The scent is really strong. It honestly gave me a shock when I first used it since the Bio Essence is scentless. The color and texture is also like water, so no difference there. The only problem with this product is when I stop using it for two week. My skin turns nasty. There’s no pimples or blemishes, but there is extreme dullness that made me look a few years older. I did not observe such a dramatic effect when I stopped using Bio Essence.

This is totally not what I’m looking for in skincare products at all. It reminds me of alcohol or drug addiction—you feel great for a while, but once you stop you lose the high and have to go crawling back. I dislike such heavy reliance. It’s not like we must be monogamous when it comes to skincare.

Repurchase? No.

A State of Emergency

For the past three weeks, my skin’s been wrecking havoc, as a result of my irregular hormonal cycle. I’m not always affected by skin problems during PMS, but the severe lack of sleep and stress must be getting to me. I was affected by these pesky problems:

  • Tiny blemishes on cheekbones and forehead
  • Dry and peeling skin on cheeks
  • Peeling fingertips
  • Severe dehydration lines on forehead

It is impossible to use my regular skincare products in this state. Laneige Water Sleeping Pack_EX, for example, sting really badly.  I went on to experiment with all of the products that I own, to identify those can be tolerated, and those that must be avoided. Below are my emergency skincare products:

Skincare emergency

  1. Cure Natural Aqua Gel—to get rid of the patches of peeling skin, I didn’t dare to apply a chemical exfoliant in case the blemishes are further aggregated. I opted for the Aqua Gel which is a physical exfoliant. Dead skin is removed through the gentle rubbing motion.
  2. IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning (read review)—it quite a surprise that there is no stinging or tingling when applied to skin. I did not really love this product when used on normal days. However, I’ve read how SK II helped people with acne prone skin so I’m giving it a shot, since it is a dupe of the SK II. It’s been working out great.
  3. L’Herboflore Masks (read review)—for added moisture to the peeling skin. All masks are essentially humectanta, so it doesn’t matter what “flavor” you choose. Even though these masks contain fragrance, they feel really comfortable, non-irritating and hydrating to the skin.
  4. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask—used as a moisturizer rather than a mask. Even without fragrance, there is a mild tingling sensation when applied, but much better than any other moisturizer.

I did not touch most of my other products, because anti-aging or whitening is not my priority, and fragrance and fragile skin doesn’t mix. I feel safer just sticking to the most basic items with simple ingredients. I have only used the four products above in the past three weeks, and my skin is on its way to recovery. I will not declare them miracle products, since I’m sure much of it is my body’s natural healing process, but they’ve worked out fine. I do wish I have La Roche-Posay Cicaplast on hand though, it sounds wonderful for damaged skin.

Aside from skincare products, there are also some natural remedies, both applied topically and taken orally:

  1. Manuka Honey—Apply a small dollop on a white head and covered the spot with a piece of cotton pad (or a band-aid), it will go down the following morning. Preferably higher UMF.
  2. Honey & Cinnamon Mask—Mix cinnamon powder with raw honey and apply to trouble spots, leave for 20 minutes. Both honey and cinnamon are anti-bacterial. Use a cheaper honey (manuka honey with lower UMF, raw honey, regular honey) for this as the mask t is going to be washed away soon.
  3. Evening Primrose Oil—Taken orally to help reduce PMS symptoms, promote and maintain hormonal balance.
  4. Flaxseed Oil—Caroline Hiron recommended taking fish oil or flaxseed oil for people with problem skin in her article here.
  5. Vitamins—I don’t think severe vitamin deficiency is the cause of peeling skin in my case, I’m not malnourished. But still, a little vitamin boost won’t hurt, especially since I’ve stopped taking them regularly in the past few months.

Of course, the best course of action is to eat well, sleep well and be stress-free. If you cannot do any of those (like me), then think of teddy bears and flowers, let thoughts of happier memories push you through the tough times! 🙂

IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning

IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning

I don’t like to use toners all that much, but here’s one I’d be happy to soak up if I have a bottomless purse. The IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning costs 65,000KRW (US$65), and lasts about two to three months from my experience. I first came across this product here, a Korea shopping guide on CNN Travel. With a bit more research I realized this sounds a lot like SK II Facial Treatment Essence (so darn expensive) and its many Korean dupes, like the Missha First Treatment Essence. The Bio Essence claims to:

  • Maintain skin health through its Bio-redox 93.7%
  • Restore transparent, clear and smooth skin
  • Boosts the vitality of the skin, encouraging skin renewal and aiding in cell cycle

The product comes in a sleek frosted glass bottle. The texture and smells is just like water, and I wasn’t sure what it is doing to my skin. I followed instructions dutifully—soak the Bio Essence on cotton pad and gently swipe in circular motions. After three weeks of usage, there was an overall improvement to my skin in terms of texture and tone.

My problem with the product is how wasteful it is. The cotton pad soaks up most of the essence, so with every application half of the product actually lands in your bin. It’s the sort of guilty feeling when you don’t finish your meal and you think of others who can’t actually afford to have any food. Moreover, I was at a point where I wanted to streamline my skincare to reduce the number of products I put on my face. I decided I’d rather spend more on moisturizers and serums instead. I benched it after the first month.

It is only in the past two weeks that I have started to appreciate what it can do for me. I am currently undergoing a skin crisis (zits, peeling skin and all), and the Bio Essence is one of the few products that does not sting my face. I think I’d write about the other products that I’m using to calm my skin at a later date.

I will not re-purchase this despite my new found appreciation. The Bio Essence, though cheaper than SK II, is still far too expensive to order five times a year for a constant supply.

Skincare Routine


I’m blessed with normal skin for most parts of the year, with occasional periods when I am affected by dehydration or severe dullness. Other concerns are listed in my beauty profile (read here), but for the most part I can try out products for both dry, oily, combination or sensitive skin without my face kicking a fuss.

Skincare routine entry will have to be updated every year, I guess. I’m still on constant search for cost-effective products so I don’t always re-purchase even the favorites. Hope this skincare routine can help you out!


Routine 01

CLEANSER—I’m not particular about cleansers and unwilling to splurge on them. Cetaphil Gentle Daily Skin Cleanser is a product that is frequently on discounts where I am and it works well enough.

Routine 03

(Optional) TONER—I don’t use toners anymore, because I felt it isn’t doing so much for my skin as compared to serums and moisturizers. If I have to choose, though, the answer would have to be IOPE Bio Essence (read review). It is basically one of the many Korean dupes for SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. An inexpensive alternative is  the Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner (read review) which is moisturizing, but lacks the revitalizing properties of the IOPE Bio Essence.

Routine 02

SERUM—A water-based serum that should help to improve overall appearance of the skin, or address any specific concern you might have. This is the one area I am most particular about, as this is supposed to supply the most restorative ingredients for the skin. I am still left with two weeks’ supply of Hanyul Optimizing Serum (read review), which works okay. If you have the budget, go for Estee Lauder ANR (read quick review), hands down the best serum that I’ve tried.

Routine 04

BB CREAMTechnically a makeup product, but sun protection is an important part of skincare too, I’m squeezing this in. I’ve been using Hanyul Rich Effect Revitalizing BB Cream for two months, and so far it has been great. It is almost sweat-proof, stays on throughout the day and has high UVA/UVB protection. On the downside, only two shades are available and the color has a heavy yellowish undertone. I will do a longer review after using this for another three months at least.


Routine 05

MAKEUP REMOVER—Bioderma Sensibio. This is fantastic, and nothing can compare to Bioderma when it comes to removing makeup and sunscreen. Everything just melts right off. When I’m out of this, I will just using plain Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is also acceptable (and dirt cheap and yummy). Beware of using oils if you have oily skin though. There are conflicting opinions on using the oil cleansing method for oily skin types, but just to be safe, I’d say micellar solution is one where you cannot go wrong.

CLEANSER & SERUM—Same as morning.

Routine 06

MOISTURIZER—I prefer emollient creams rather than gels moisturizers. Hanyul Rich Effect Revitalizing Cream (read review) has worked the best for me and I’ve already finished one tub. The Hanyul Rich Effect Cream I have just started using but skin’s been loving it so far. Both help to improve the appearance of dull skin and minimize faint dehydration lines. If they are difficult to get hold of, the La Roche-Posay Redermic C is great too (see below).

Routine 07

(Optional) EYE MOISTURIZER—I honestly don’t think it is necessary to have a separate eye moisturizer. I haven’t used one that is so spectacular that I want to purchase over and over again. The closest would have to be the La Roche-Posay Redermic C Eye (€29 for 15ml), but the full sized La Roche-Posay Redermic C has similar formulation, and is so much cheaper (€34 for 40ml).

Routine 08

(Optional) SLEEP MASK or GEL MOISTURIZER—This is purely for “bad-skin-days” when a single emollient moisturizer is not sufficient, and I experience a tautness in my face. Most sleep masks, plus gel moisturizers are formulated to supply moisture and do little else, i.e. no anti-oxidants or minimal skin-repair ingredients. The Laneige Water Sleeping Pack_EX is great. Many premium brands have hydration ranges, such as Guerlain Super Aqua, Biotherm Aquasource and Vichy Aqualia Thermal, but they work similarly for thrice the price, so there is no need to splurge on this category.

Weekly / Occasional Treatment

CLAY MASK—To reduce any shine in T-zone. The masks not really that different except for their prices and scent, any of these that I’ve reviewed (read reviews). A cheap clay powder like the Now Foods European Clay Powder work just as well.

SHEET MASK—L’Herboflore masks (read review) are Taiwanese treasures that are also total nightmares to get hold of. The Aritaum Fresh Essence masks, which you can find on Gmarket are also great.

If you have your own “skin saviors”, let me know! I love to experiment!

Quick Reviews I

October 2013 Empties

These are the empties for the past few months. I can’t bring myself to do detailed reviews because I’m already moving on to other products. Just thought I’d write a few lines for each of them.

DHC Kakonjuka Cream (40ml)

I’ve used this as a night cream for two months and woke up everyday to well-rested skin, though to be fair I do not have major skin concerns to begin with. The texture of the cream is great, not too thick and reasonably easy to absorb. It is definitely too heavy to use in the daytime in tropical heat. There is a faint smell of mushrooms but nothing too unpleasant.

Repurchase: No.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (100ml)

This is the pre-reformulation jumbo-size bottle. I am way too young to use this (still in my 20s), but someone’s gotta finish what Mom started before it expires. I’ll not talk about its effects, because it is magic in a bottle and I’m sure everyone already knows it. The 100ml lasted for over more than 13 months, which isn’t really hygienic. Even with the dropper I’m sure some dust is getting in there. It’s best to get the regular 30ml which should last 3 to 4 months.

Repurchase: No. Maybe when I hit my 40s.

Thayers Rose Petal Alcohol Free Witch Hazel (355ml)

This toner has a lovely scent and leaves skin slightly damp and ready for serums. I’ve used up three bottles, but now I am not sure if a toner is necessary. My skin felt okay after skipping the toner and hitting the essence or serum straight after cleansing.

Repurchase: No. I may not use toners at all.

Clarins HydraQuench Cream-Gel (50ml)

I loved it at first–it is suitable for tropical climate, it is relatively light, easy to absorb and smells divine. But halfway through the tub I realised that while it does hydrate, it does little of anything else. I did not notice the well-rested effect as with DHC Kakonjuka Cream or any improvement to the skin over the long haul. It can be easily substituted by other hydration-only moisturisers like Laneige Water Bank Gel Cream and La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light.

Repurchase: No. I’ve learnt to demand more from my moisturisers.