Holy Grail Skincare

I plan for this page to be constantly updated with a compilation of skincare products that I consider to be holy grails. I have to confess that I do have high standards !(*´∀`*)尸” and there are very few products that I consider to be HG worthy.

So ladies, let me present the super short list of my skincare HGs! ゝ(▽`*ゝ)

I. The Already HGs

i.e. True loves, not actively searching for anything in the same category

Chifure Essence (review)

  • Added: June 2015
  • My go-to hydration serum for daily use, even when I’m battling bouts of dryness, sensitivity or the rare acne
  • Very very affordable boost of instant hydration

II. The Potential HGs

i.e. Love them, but the love needs to withstand the test of time

Rohto Melano CC Medicated Intensive Spot Correcting Serum (review)

  • Added: December 2016
  • Current on tube number 2, best AA serum used thusfar
  • Stable formula, excellent packaging, can be layered under other skincare products
  • Crazy affordable for a vitamin C serum

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

  • Added: February 2017
  • Beautiful beautiful exfoliating slash pH adjusting toner

Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Intensive Care Cream

  • Added: February 2017
  • Rich, emollient, luxurious texture
  • I wake up to well-rested and glowing skin

III. The ex-HGs

i.e. Loved them madly, but they’ve passed on

Hanyul Rich Effect Cream (review)

  • Added: March 2014
  • Killed as part of Hanyul revamp here. Note: The Hanyul Seo Ri Tae Anti Ageing Cream is NOT the Rich Effect Cream! The texture is completely different!

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.

Holy G: Chifure Essence!

Chifure Essence 01.jpg

The Chifure Essence is my favorite hydrating serum, but I can’t seem to find a review or product information in English, so I’m here to rectify that (*´∇`)ノ

The Essence was first purchased blind in Japan back in 2015. After just one nights use, I proceeded to buy 3 more refills at the Matsu Kiyo near my hotel. After countless more refills and brief flings with other products, I think I’m ready to declare this as my HG.

The Essence is a very simple hydrating serum. Do not expect it to do anything else, aside from giving your skin a shot of hydration, plumpness and help your skin absorb other products.

Ingredients

The Essence has a short ingredient list. Head to the CosDNA site for the full list. Standard cosmetic ingredients are marked with *. The first 7 ingredients by weight are as follows:

  • Butylene glycol *
  • Glycerin *
  • Sodium hyaluronate *
  • Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate *
  • Hyaluronic acid *
  • Saccharomyces Cerevisiae is new to me. It comes from baker’s yeast, but I’m not sure what it is supposed to do here.
  • Morus Bombycis Root aka white mulberry root extract, a whitening ingredient which is also present many other beauty products, such as Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream.

How I incorporate it in my routine

PM Steps: Exfoliating Toner > Fermented Essene > Serum > Hydrating Serum OR Sheet Mask> Moisturiser OR Sleeping Pack

I understand that for some, a plain hyaluronic acid serum is superfluous, because why not use products which provide whitening and anti-aging benefits on top of hydration? Well, to each her own, I suppose.

Products tend to be touted as all-in-one or multi-functional, like those ridiculous 5-in-1 gel creams from Japan that claim that one product is all you need. It’s a bit like McDonalds servings sizes are bigger than 50 years ago, and how our homes are bigger than ever. We want more, bigger and better every single time, which is not a bad thing. But I do still find value in products simple products like Chifure Essence and the HABA Squalane (review). They do only one thing but do it really really well. For the antioxidants as well as whitening ingredients, I trust that my serums will do their jobs.

In any case, if you want your skincare steps to pack extra punch, Chifure does have other essences:

  • Chifure Whitening Essence VC: with ascorbic acid
  • Chifure Whitening Essence W: with arbutin and ascorbic acid.

I haven’t tried those. I may, in the future, but they aren’t that high up in my test list.

Other Hydrating Serums

There are loads of other hydrating serums out there, such as Indeed Labs Hydraluron, Hada Labo Moist Essence (not the Hada Labo SHA Lotion). The COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (review coming) is also another good hydrating serums which is very affordable, plus it comes in a 100ml pump bottle.

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There you have it! What is your favorite hydrating serum? Or maybe you like more of the multi-functional skincare, I’d love to hear your thoughts 😉

New on the Hit List: Rohto Melano CC

Warning! This is a new entry to my potential HG list: Rohto Melano CC Medicated Intensive Spot Correcting Serum (¥1,058 for 20ml). Potential HG is when I love the product like a litter of newborn kittens, but as a rational woman I have to exercise restraint and see if this love can withstand the test of time.

And can you believe it, my Holy Grails tag currently features 1 product which has been discontinued, which is why potential HGs are so exciting.

rhoto-melano-cc-01

HAHA FOR A VITAMIN C SERUM OF COURSE I HAD TO USE A LEMON AS A PROP

The product claims to suppress melanin production and prevent spots, freckles, acne and breakouts, which topical application of vitamin C is proven to do. The vitamin C variety in this serum is ascorbic acid, which generally has the drawback of stinging upon application and a sometimes nasty citrus scent. Back in 2015 I had a stint with the OST C20 Serum, which features ascorbic acid as well. That baby stung (burnt) and made my skin look extremely greasy.

I can safely say that there is no stinging observed with Melano CC, but it does have the standard citrus scent. Like my dish soap. ARGH. Housework is not sexy.

The first time I used it, I applied it all over my face and man it got tingly and warm. Also, it has a rather oily texture so application to the whole face isn’t particularly appealing. BUT give it 5 mins and all the serum will be absorbed, and you can proceed to layer the rest of your skincare. I generally use it on my cheeks where I have some discolorations and freckles.

rhoto-melano-cc-03

THE TINIEST NOZZLE THAT YOU’LL SEE IN A SKINCARE PRODUCT

It comes in a silver tube with a tiny nozzle that dispenses the product in teeny drops. This is a great design for dispensing unstable compounds like ascorbic acid. Its been 3 months, and the serum still comes out clear, while OST C20 turned an ugly orange within a month of opening. While I had to keep the OST C20 in the fridge immediately after opening, I find that I don’t really have to do that with the Melano CC, though it is a good habit to practice for all vitamin C serums.

I’ve been using the serum consistently since last December and I’m almost done with the tube!

A quick comparison with other vitamin C serums

I have only used one other type of vitamin C derivative: the sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) aka HABA White Lady (review), but the Melano CC is a very good re-introduction to ascorbic acid. It trumps the OST C20 Serum in every single way. The packaging allows for more stability, it doesn’t sting and it doesn’t leave a sticky finish. Most important of all, I don’t need to have this mad scramble to finish the product before it oxidizes. Oh and the price is comparable to OST C20!

On a side note, I really want to try magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), which is supposed to be more effective than SAP.

Where to buy

I bought my 2 tubes on my trips to Japan, but you can also find it here on Qoo10 Global and Rakuten Global.

Other reviews

The fantastic Ratzillacosme wrote a glowing review of this serum.

SK-II Haul!

This is the sister post to the Korean beauty haul posted earlier. I have split the gigantic haul into 2 posts because they are so different. For the Korean beauty haul, sometimes it is difficult to find any information, product introduction, brand philosophy as well as ingredients list. This is especially for the Hanyul brand which somehow doesn’t have enough presence in the Western markets and blogsphere.

For the SK-II brand, there are literally mega-tonnes of information, blogs, forums, e-zines to filter through. It is obvious that many bloggers were offered free samples or full-sized products, not having spent a single cent of their money. Sometimes the resulting “review” is just a repeat of the official marketing materials. “… After x years of research”, “amazing ingredients xxx and xxx is shown to do xxx”. I have no qualms about brands gifting products for review (give me some please (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و), and I do like SK-II, especially the defunct Stempower Cream, but it gets tiring trying to find a genuine review.

So for the haul below, some are bought with blind faith that they will work with zero research done on my part.

sk-ii-haul

Obviously, I’m terrible at flatlays hurhur

SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion 160ml

This is an AHA/BHA toner with added pitera, which I will be comparing with the Mizon AHA&BHA Daily Clean Toner. Based on the ingredients list alone, FTCL looks like a winner, as it doesn’t contain alcohol. But then again, my skin is mostly hardy and I can tolerate alcohol in my skincare.

SK-II Genoptics Aura Essence & SK-II Genoptics Spot Essence

I bought SK-II’s skin brightening line after the results of the Magic Ring test showed that I ain’t doing well in that department. I since then, I have stocked up on a number of skin brightening serums. This Genoptics pair is the most expensive of the lot and I will be very disappointed if they don’t work.

I’m currently still on the Melano CC and I am scheduled to use these in mid-April if everything goes well.

SK-II RNA Power Cream & Eye Cream

Another attempt at my HG hunt. I have lofty expectations of the RNA line because the Stempower line has treated me wonderfully. I have started using the eye cream, but will not be starting on the face cream until I’m done with the Kose Moisture Skin Repair Cream.

That’s all, bye! You won’t be seeing another haul for the next half year because my wallet is seriously dented. (シ;゚Д゚)シ

K Beauty Haul!

k-beauty-haul-s

 

2016 has been a dry year in terms of skincare. I worked hard and spent most of the year using up my formidable stash which is mostly stored in my fridge. Now that my fridge is mostly cleared, 2017 is where I go crazy with the new-shiny-things.

Its only been 3 months and I already have 2 hauls heading my way. One is dirt cheap / affordable Korean skincare haul, and another wallet denting high end skincare haul (See it here SK-II Haul!). Here’s my first impressions.

mizon-and-cosrx-m

Mizon is a potential HG while the COSRX is…

Mizon AHA&BHA Daily Clean Toner 150ml

A bit of history about me and acids first: I have normal to dry skin, and I have been a regular AHA user for more than five years. I have never felt the need for BHAs as acne and clogs has never been my concern. My previous foray into BHAs with the DHC Salicylic Acid Toner was a terrible experience, which had me gifting my two bottles away immediately. After listening to a Snailcast episode about acids recently, my heart started itching again and I bought the Mizon on Qoo10. Its been 2 weeks of nightly use and I can say it is a good fit for me. Look at the dent that I’ve already made! LOOK!

(CosDNA)

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence 100ml

This is firmly in the same hydrating essence category as my favorite Chifure Essence and Unitec Advanced Hydrating Essence. I have given it a few days of tries, and so far it has performed well, but it is nothing to write about. Though seriously, can you ever do something different with hydrating essences?

(CosDNA)

COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask 50g

I bought this after the Japanology episode about how extracts from rice can help the skin’s ability to retain moisture. I already have a cream with rice extracts which I like, so its a sleep mask that I’m trying next.

(CosDNA)

Hanyul Baek Hwa Goh Silky Skin Cream

I haven’t been able to find a cream that I love following the discontinuation of the Hanyul Rich Effect line. The closest that I have gotten was SK II Stempower Cream, but even that has been discontinued. So I find myself getting both the SK II RNA Power Cream and falling back into the Hanyul trap. Baek Hwa Goh literally translates to the “White Flower Mushroom” i.e. Shiitake mushroom, and is also said to include hydrolyzed ginseng saponins, ginseng root extract and angelica root extract.

(CosDNA)

Hanyul Optimizing Mask

I have loved the Hanyul Optimizing Serum (review) and Hanyul Rich Effect Overnight Mask (review), so I’m guessing I should be at least okay with a marriage between the two.

(CosDNA)

Where I bought them: COSRX, Mizon on Qoo10 Global, Hanyul on Qoo10 Global

Japanology: Quest for Perfect Skin

Not a Japanophile, but I find the NHK Japanology series hugely entertaining. In particular, this 2016 episode Quest for Perfect Skin caught my attention. In Japan, skincare heavily outsells makeup, haircare and fragrances, with a whooping 46.2% of the Japanese cosmetics market is contributed by skincare. Such an informative episode warrants a mini reflection of the learning lessons.

1. The sun the the (greatest) enemy

Women from the Shimane Prefecture have the best skin in the whole of Japan.  This observation comes from an annual assessment of more than 700,000 women across all prefectures, where skin samples are assessed based on factors such as moisture and texture.

The reason why Shimane Prefecture have been crowned for four consecutive years, is that the region enjoys a cloudy and wet climate, meaning less sun exposure and skin damage from UV rays.

In another instance, Kako Iizuka, a lady with great skin at the age of 56 introduces her sun gear. This includes gloves, hats, huge sunglasses as well as cloths that covers her face and neck. Like this:

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-9-40-57-am

Lesson Learnt: I am at a disadvantage because I live in the tropics and UV is abundant all year round. Daily sunblock is a must even if I am staying indoors. I don’t think I will go as far as wearing a hat and sunglasses daily, people here just don’t do that.

2. Lather your soap

Unlike the Western variety, Japanese foaming cleansers usually work into an ultra-dense foam like beaten-up egg whites. It is thought that a dense foam will reduce the friction during the cleansing and minimize stress to the skin. Japanese ladies spend a full minute to aerate the soap until stiff peaks form before spreading it on their face. Also, more attention is devoted to the nose and forehead, where sebum production is in excess.

Lesson Learnt: I’m still not very keen on using a pile of foam for cleansing, because generally foams are created using SLS or other foaming agents. They can mess with the pH of the cleanser. BUT I must say, the Japanese lathering method is a super luxurious way to clean your face. The dense foam really glides across the skin as you massage your face, and it is a magnificent feeling.

Look at all these foam created with Kose Softymo White Cleansing Wash

Look at all these foam created with Kose Softymo White Cleansing Wash!

3. Ancient remedies do work

In the past, women in Japan used rice brans to exfoliate their skin after their bath. In recent years with the advancements in technology, compounds extracted from rice can help with the skin’s ability retain moisture. These include fermentation products derived from rice, such as sake.

Lesson Learnt: I happen to have Kose Moisture Skin Repair Cream on hand, and its key ingredient is rice. Not surprisingly, the product claims to “improves the skin’s natural ability to retain moisture from within“. I have had difficulty writing a review about it because I could not find a ingredients list in English, nor any research on the efficacy of rice extracts on skin. But heck, I do like it as a moisturizer and now I know why.

kose-moisture-skin-repair-cream-02

Kose Moisture Skin Repair Cream, whose key ingredients include rice extracts.

There are other interesting points in the episode as well, but these are the ones that truly stood out for me. Do you know of any informative shows or podcasts for this skincare junkie?