Holy G: Chifure Essence!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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?

An Asian Vanity

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I’m not much of a make-up person, but I do own items to look presentable for work. Here’s a few in rotation that hail from Japan or Korea, hence the title.

Kose FASIO UV Protect Gel (¥1,000 for 50g) is lightweight, non-sticky and invisible. When I wear this I can do away with the foundation primer as it is an excellent base. It is said to contain collagen and hyaluronic acid to retain moisture. Wild claims aside (collagen CANNOT be absorbed through the skin =͟͟͞͞( •̀д•́))) I LOVE IT except that it is so hard to get hold of even in Japan. It is definitely not a staple in Matsu-Kiyo. On my most recent trip to Hokkaido, I did not spot FASIO products even once.

Paul & Joe Moisturizing Foundation Primer I’m mostly using just to finish up the last bit. I don’t think I will be buying any primer from now on, it is too much of a hassle. Missha M Magic Cushion in 21 is a decent cushion foundation with a medium matt finish. I don’t have much to say about it except that it is Missha is GENEROUS. The puff is almost disintegrating from the multiple washes, and yet the product still doesn’t dry out.

Club Yuagari Suppin Powder (¥1,600 for 26g) was purchased solely for its wonderful white floral scent. Supposedly developed for women afraid of showing their boyfriends their bare faces, it helps to reduce the appearance of an uneven skin tone and pores. It also claims to contain collagen (COME’ON! =͟͟͞͞( •̀д•́)), hyaluronic acid and other skincare goodness that you can go to sleep without removing it.

It does indeed give a perfectly lightweight and natural finish, though the effect does not last too long in the Singapore humidity. It is very similar to Jurlique Rose Silk Finishing Powder in terms of the finish and scent, except with the added benefit of coming in a pressed compact.

Canmake Cream Cheek in 13 Love Peach You can see that I’ve hit pan right? I’m very excited because this is the first time I have ever hit pan on a blush. To be frank I have rotated between CL01 Clear Red Heart (a cherry red color) and Love Peach, but recently I’ve been reaching for the Love Peach more. It is a milky, light peach color that is barely visible after blending, but gives a very subtle flush which does disappear by the afternoon. I find cream blushes great to carry around in the make up pouch because you can work with your fingers and do away with the additional weight of a blush brush. The heat from your fingertips actually work better to melt the product and blend as compared to a brush.

Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick in 366 Pink Icon. 366 is a muted sheer pink and very wearable. It is basically my HG MLBB colour. The Dior Addict Extreme line I find is generally moisturising and creamy but their lasting power isn’t spectacular. For people looking for lasting power and pigmentation, another Dior line or another brand will work better.

So there we have it! Unlike skincare, I don’t have a wishlist for make-up nor am I well informed about brands and releases. I am currently out of ideas in the foundation department. What foundation should I try next?

The Minimalist Pair from HABA

I’m alright a long ingredients list in my skincare, because my skin can handle a pounding: parabens, mineral oils, acids, all of these never really wrecked up my skin. (*•̀ᴗ•́*)و ̑̑

Occasionally though, I do get curious about the less-is-more philosophy, which Japanese companies like HABA do really well. HABA hails from Hokkaido and they claim that all their products are free of parabens, mineral oils, colorants, fragrances and petrochemicals.  (Totally unrelated, but next on my try-list is another Japanese brand FANCL, which claims all their products are 100% preservative free).

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HABA White Lady (¥3,888 for 30ml)

Ingredients List: Water, sasa kurilensis water, glycerin, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, pentylene glycol, polyquaternium-51, sodium hyaluronate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, citric acid

HABA White Lady contains sasa kurilensis water, a bamboo extract which stands-in for traditional preservatives, and vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the most well known and extensively researched topical antioxidants. Continuous use has been shown to improve signs of aging and brighten skin tone.

The form of vitamin C used in White Lady is sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP), which is less common (and less extensively researched) than the standard ascorbic acid, but is stable and water-soluble nonetheless. Like the magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), it is gentler and milder than ascorbic acid, and concentrations of 1% to 5% is shown to be effective. In comparison, vitamin C serums that uses the ascorbic acid variety generally contains 15% to 20% (examples being OST Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum and Paula’s Choice RESIST C15 Super Booster).

Prior to HABA White Lady, I have only used one other vitamin C serum–OST C20 Serum. From the very first use I can confidently say that White Lady is my preferred serum for everyday use. White Lady is unbelievably gentle. I give amount 4 pumps of White Lady and pat only my skin every night. It goes on the face with a texture of toner, and sinks into the skin very quickly. C20 Serum on the other hand stings upon first application, and has the very distinct scent of citrus fruits. It absorbs slowly and settles into a film on the skin. I do not dislike the C20 serum nor find the scent offensive, but it does makes my face look and feel sticky and look greasy.

This is where I find HABA a better fit in my skincare routine–it layers so well with all of the other skincare items and I can use it in the daytime under moisturiser and sunblock.

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HABA Squalane (¥2,700 for 30ml)

Squalane is a botanical lipid which is naturally occurring on the human skin. However, production of squalane slows as we age. HABA Squalane is 99.99% pure and aims to replenish the naturally occurring compound. I cannot find an ingredient’s list, so I cannot comment on what is the remaining 0.01%.

How to use: The official instructions by HABA is to apply 1 to 2 drops of squalane using moist hands on moist skin, after cleanser and toner, to create a well-balanced film over the skin.

In practice, I use it several ways:

  1. Mix it with with toner on the palm before applying to the skin, really go ALL OUT on the “moist hands and moist skin” by actually mixing squalane with a toner. The HABA G Lotion is an excellent companion.
  2. After moisturiser as an additional layer to seal in the moisture, particularly around the eye and lip area where the skin is most prone with wrinkles.
  3. BEFORE a sheet mask. It does not make sense to apply an oil before a sheet mask–wouldn’t the oil prevent penetration of any hydrating benefits of the sheet mask? But IT REALLY WORKS FOR ME! I don’t know it is weird.

As far as face oils go, the slight drawback is that Squalane absorb much quicker than most the other facial oils that i have used before. It takes some getting used to, as I usually do a quick massage on my face when I apply face oils, but Squalane doesn’t provide as much slip because it sinks so quickly.

Overall, the HABA line is excellent. No overnight magic here. The key is “gentle, nourishing and stable”. These are products that slowly inch their way into a place on your dressing table, and before you know it you’re repurchasing again.