Category Archives: Toners

Quick Reviews: Melano CC Full Range

Just a quick update today. Life has been throwing curveballs at me and I can barely handle .·´¯`(>▂<)´¯`·. Had some pretty flowers at home and of course I have to whip out the most gaudy yellow skincare item I have in my arsenal for a photoshoot and some quick reviews.

Melano CC Vitamin White Mist

Do not expect any skin lightening or spot fading from this. This mist is essentially toner in a fancy bottle, with only the benefit of hydration and maybe a whee bit of pH adjusting effects.

The bottle delivers the toner in a fine spray, with a nice refreshing lemon scent. It absorbs particularly well on damp skin right after cleansing (like all other toners, use on damp skin, not when it is desert dry and cracking). My skin feels nice and refreshed, no irritation whatsoever, but that is about all that the mist does.

I’ve tried using mists as a mid-day refresher before, on top of make up and sunblock. I hated it so I will not experiment on your behalf. All on all, this satisfies that urge to get every damn thing in a collection, but I have not found a reason to repurchase this.

Melano CC Vitamin Essence Mask

Announcement: I have repurchased this because of a Black Friday cart coupon that Qoo10 was dishing out.

Each box of mask pack contain 20 sheets that you pull out like a tissue. The masks are not saturated with the essence like the individually packed masks, plus the fit isn’t fantastic, but it is good enough. The essence contains the same active ingredients as the Spot Essence (Review), but definitely at a much lower concentration, so don’t expect the mask to have any effect on your spots.

What I do like about it is how it leaves a weird, slightly greasy residue. HEAR ME OUT! These days I am just so short of time. I find myself committing multiple skincare sins, such as leaving a mask on for too long and sometimes forgetting to moisturise after the mask… The Melano CC Mask leaves an almost oily residue, so my skin does not dry out! It is perfect on busy days where I slap it on after shower and cleansing, and dive straight back to work :’D

Of course, there is also Melano CC Whitening Lotion mentioned in my empties post here, but I am dead tired and my bed beckons, so that is for another day!


Estée Lauder Micro Essence

Something that you must learn about me, I suffer from a case of brand loyalty–if I like just one product from a particular brand, I want to try EVERY SINGLE THING on their catalog because I have the niggling suspicion and everything from the brand is just as great. It is highly irrational, and I have to catch myself at the checkout sign all the time.

Sometimes, things slip through the cracks. That is how I ended up with not one, but two bottles of the Estée Lauder Micro Essence. Of course it started from all the years of straying and going back to ANR (reviewed here).

How to use it

Use it right after cleansing, before all your other skincare steps. The texture is slightly tacky so you can either apply it with a cotton pad, or pat onto your skin using your palms. Of course I did the latter because I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I don’t poop gold.

I normally follow up with another active like AHA / BHA, or my regular serum, some of which mentioned here.

My thoughts

The most immediate thought is that it is very very hydrating, more so than any other fermented essences (IOPE Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning (review) and Secret Key Starting Treatment Essence (review)), and my dehydrated skin is very appreciative of it.

The follow up thought is unsexy: there is definitely more of the standard moisturising ingredients like glycols (pentylene glycol, butylene glycol, or propylene glycols) or the hyaluronates (hyaluronic acid or sodium hyalunate). Do not for one second believe there is anything special about the formulation, one thing CosDNA has taught me is that even the most luxurious formulas have humble backgrounds, and it is almost always those few standard ingredients.

What makes the essences “special” is only the single ingredient, in this case bifida ferment lysate. More studies are still needed on the effectiveness of bfl on skin, but let me just quote Paula’s Ingredients Dictionary here “Limited research has shown that yeast ferment filtrate (a compound different from bifida ferment lysate) offsets oxidative skin damage in the presence of UV light, but this research also showed that many other antioxidants have a similar effect.” (Source)

(So, yep, it seems like the bfl is not totally a fad)

The problem is, I had too high of an expectation for anything from Estée Lauder, following the wonders that is ANR and CPR (here), which made significant improvements to my skin. ME sounds really good on paper, but aside from the initial boost of hydration, I have not noticed any changes to my skin.

Estée Lauder says that ME is best paired with ANR, which is what I would normally do anyway. Whether it is the truth or it is a ploy to get you to spend more money on the brand by getting the whole set, you decide. (:

All in all, nope. It is not bad, but for its price, I’d rather splurge on another brown bottle.


Water/Aqua/Eau, Bifida Ferment Lysate, PEG-75, Propanediol, Butylene Glycol, Betaine, Pentylene Glycol, Betaine, Pentylene Glycol, Lactobacillus Ferment, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Acetyl Glucosamine, Trehalose, Caffeine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile), Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Citrate, Triomethmine, Disodium EDTA, Phexoxyethanol

(See, it is a very standard list)

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.