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June 30, 2016

[Review] April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink in 01 Pink

Today, I’m going to be sharing my full review on the April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink, which is a pale pink primer in cushion form, meant to brighten skin. I’ve previously reviewed this product briefly on Instagram, but I wanted to give you guys more details about the product. This product was sent to me by 0.8L in exchange for my honest review on Instagram, but I’m choosing to do a full review on it because I genuinely like the product and want to share my experience with the product in-depth. As always, my review will be 100% honest.
This post does not contain affiliate links.

About the brand:

April Skin is a Korean skincare and cosmetics company that focuses on products made with natural ingredients. If you purchase Korean cosmetics or spend time over at reddit.com/r/asianbeauty, then you’re probably already familiar with the brand through some of their popular products, such as the Magic Stone soap, and their popular Magic Snow Cushion Foundations. The brand is built around three core concepts: exclude harmful ingredients, rejuvenate dull and fatigued skin, and make the best products to satisfy consumers.

About the Magic Snow Pink Cushion Compact:

Price: $21-29 for 15 grams of product (doesn’t include a refill)

Where to buy it Amazon $26.88 (prime shipping, all colors in stock, but listed separately as of this posting), $29 AprilSkin (ships worldwide), BBCosmetic $21

The “Pink Cushion Compact” line refers to the packaging of this product, which is a pale pink, mirrored cushion case with the brand name printed in holographic lettering. It’s gorgeous, but it’s also functional too. The plastic casing feels sturdy, and the mirror inside the compact is a high quality crystal-clear mirror, which is great if you need to use the mirror inside the case (as opposed to a bathroom mirror or vanity/desktop mirror). The compact is also refillable, though the refills for the White and Black cushion foundations won’t fit this case. Like I mentioned before, the “pink” in the name refers to the packaging, the product actually comes in four different colors.

From the product listing on April Skin’s website:
01 Pink is meant for fair skin with a warm tone. The pink creates a brightening effect and corrects the appearance of dullness in the skin. (This is the one I’m showing you today.)
02 Green is meant for correcting redness due to sensitivity to temperature, pigmentation left from acne, or other redness in the skin.
03 Purple is meant to correct dullness and discoloration in the skin, especially skin that “darkens and turns dull by the afternoon” (April Skin’s words, not mine).
04 Beige is meant to correct dull or uneven skin tone.

 

The puff is soft, thick, and bouncy, and is also antimicrobial, according to April Skin. Diving into the cushion itself, this is a pretty unique feature of this product. Rather than a standard cushion sponge soaked in product, the Magic Snow Cushion contains product sandwiched between two layers of sponge, which then rises to the top and onto the puff when pressure is applied. The idea behind this is to keep the product more hygienic, and to provide only the amount that you need for an even application. Although I appreciate the concept, I also find it to be a flaw of the product. Maybe it’s because I’m heavy-handed, or maybe it’s because I’m perpetually late, but the sponge doesn’t dispense product onto the puff as quickly as I would like. I find myself having to apply quite a bit of pressure or pushing down on it multiple times so I can get enough product to come out and get out the door (did I mention I’m always running late?).

Ingredients:

Can be found here. Notable ingredients are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (physical sunscreens), Niacinamide (fades pigmentation and brightens skin over time), several forms of dimethicone (so be cautious if you have a sensitivity to it, this product may not be a good fit for you), Prunus Serrulata Flower Extract (cherry blossom, anti-inflammatory), Adenosine (anti-inflammatory, potential anti-wrinkle benefits), Honey (moisturizing, anti-bacterical, antioxidant), and Camellia Japonica Flower Extract (anti-inflammatory, stimulates collagen).

 

It’s a very pale carnation pink

My Experience:

Let’s start with the smell because I fuh-reaking love the way this smells. It’s a soft, sweet, almost candy-like floral (cherry blossom maybe?). It’s divine, I would wear it as a perfume. It is quite strong, so if you don’t like scented makeup, you’ll probably want to steer clear of this, but otherwise, I think most people would find this scent pleasant or at least non-offensive. Fragrance isn’t listed anywhere in the ingredients list, which leads me to believe the scent comes naturally from the other ingredients.

The texture is lightweight, you can definitely feel that it’s a water-based product, though there’s also quite a bit of slip and slickness to it that would probably feel unpleasant on oily skin types. It’s almost kind of lotiony but without the thickness. This product is recommended for dry to combination skin because it’s moisturizing, and I totally agree with that recommendation. I think if you have oily skin, this would not only be too hydrating for you, but also too glowy. However, if you have dry skin and struggle to achieve a radiant glow, you’ll probably be head-over-heels in love with this. It really does brighten the face, and it shines through foundation beautifully.

My skin is normal to combo currently, and I have acne-prone skin. This didn’t cause me to break out at all, nor did it irritate my skin in any way. I have a lot of texture on my skin right now due to closed comedones, and I didn’t find that this emphasized them in any way, nor did it emphasize the pores on my cheeks. I don’t know how this would wear on deep wrinkles, but it didn’t sink into or emphasize the fine lines around my mouth and eyes at all. It works great under makeup too, it didn’t make my foundation wear off any more quickly than it normally would. It’s not glittery at all, but it does have a very intense sheen. I loved the glow that this created, but I did have to powder it in a few places (nose, forehead, chin) where it was just a little too much for me. Normally I would suggest applying it just in the areas that you want your skin to look more luminous, but because of the brightening pink tint, it might create a weird color difference. If you try wearing it that way, let me know how it goes. It builds beautifully without feeling cakey, although in humid weather it can feel a bit heavy if you apply several layers. One layer produced mostly shine with only a tiny bit of brightening. On my skin, I had to use two or three layers to really notice a brightening effect. For reference, my skin is approximately an NC15 in MAC, though I have an olive undertone, so it’s not an exact match. Urban Decay Naked Skin Foundation also matches me pretty well.

Finally, I will say I do think that $29 is a bit expensive for this product since it’s only 15 grams of product and doesn’t come with a refill. I did manage to find it on sale in a few places, and I would purchase it for about $20 to maybe $25. I would only pay $29 if it came with a refill. Price aside, I do really like this product and would recommend it if you’re looking for a glowy, brightening primer.

Shine bright like a diamond. One layer of the April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink in 01 Pink

Half-Face Comparison:

Left side: bare skin, Right side: 2-3 layers of the April Skin Magic Snow Cushion Pink in 01 Pink

Final Thoughts:

You’ll probably like this if:

  • You have dry or combo skin (maybe normal skin if you really like a glow and don’t get very oily throughout the day)
  • Most other glowy primers have let you down. Seriously, you can’t see it on my face because I’m in indirect light, but that glow is intense.
  • You’re not sensitive to or allergic to any of the ingredients in the ingredients list.
  • You don’t mind the price or you can find it on sale
  • Scented products don’t irritate your skin, cause migraines, or just make you want to throw a product across the room.

Avoid this is:

  • You’re not cool with shellin’ out between 20 and 30 dollars for a primer, especially when it’s only 15 grams of product
  • You have oily skin (srsly don’t do it mate)
  • You think the scent or any of the ingredients in this product will irritate you
  • You’re impatient or don’t have much time to get ready, ever. The way the sponge is designed causes it to take a little more time to apply than an ordinary cushion or a primer that comes in a tube, and I can see this becoming frustrating if you’re in a hurry. Maybe save it for a day when you’re not rushing to get ready, or possibly avoid it altogether if you don’t think it would fit your lifestyle.
  • Your skin is any darker than a very light medium. Even with a foundation over top, I think this shade would be way too light for anyone above ~NC/NW 30, and even that may be a stretch. You may have a bit of luck with the beige shade if you have a medium skin tone, but I really can’t say since I haven’t tried that one.
I’m a sucker for shiny things glowy products like this one, and this has a truly beautiful glow that makes me wish it came in body lotion form so I could just walk around looking like a Tiffany’s display all the time (#goals).
Have you tried any products from April Skin? Let me know what you thought of them in the comments down below (personally, I’m dying to get my hands on the cushion foundation and some of the sheet masks). You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter. Come say ‘hi’!
-Cristine
on
April 29, 2016

[Review] Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick

I tried the cult-favorite Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, and all I got was a face full of zits.

Yes, this cleanser made my skin throw a wee bit of a tantrum. However, before we get into the rest of the review, I just wanna remind you that everyone has different sensitivities, and the products that break me out, might not break you out. Obviously loads of people have had great experiences with this product or it wouldn’t be a cult favorite.  This was just my experience. I think it’s important to mention the good and the bad, so that you have all of the information you need to make the decision that’s right for you. Alright, on with the review!

Disclosure: This product was purchased by me with my own money.  All views expressed are my own authentic opinions. This post does not contain any affiliate links.

First, a bit about my skin. I’ve got oily-dehydrated, acne-prone, reactive skin. I do suffer from product-related breakouts, but haven’t been able to pinpoint any of my personal acne triggers yet. 
The Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick is a twist-up, soft, creamy solid stick cleanser manufactured by LG and originating from Korea. The Su:m 37 brand is centered around natural and fermented ingredients. This cleanser is unique because of the rose petals in the top layers of the product and the fermented damask rose extract. 

There were a few key factors that drew me to this product beyond the major hype it gets in the AB community. First, convenience. This cleansing stick is super convenient for travel, and completely goof-proof, drunk-proof (verified personally for, uh, science? Yeah, no. We both know I’m not getting away with that one), whatever proof. Whether you choose to apply the stick directly to your face or emulsify it in your hands first, it’s very easy to use, especially since it doesn’t require the use of a spatula or any other special tools. 

The second was the pH. It’s got a pH between 5 and 6 according to Kerry of Skin&Tonics, which is beneficial for preventing damage to the moisture barrier (acid mantle), and can also be helpful for reducing breakouts in acne prone skin, among other things which I won’t get into here. If you want to understand more about why pH is important in skincare, especially in cleansers, I highly recommend you check out Snow’s post on this subject over on Snow White and the Asian Pear.

The third factor was the rose petals. I was going through a bit of an “omg give me all of the rose scented products, I want to rub them all over me and smell like fresh roses forever and ever amen” phase when I purchased this. The Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick has real rose petals embedded into the top layer of the cleanser. They help to gently exfoliate the skin, but since they’re only in the top layer you’ll only see that benefit for the first few washes (the petals lasted about 10-15 washes for me). As you use the cleanser, the pieces of rose petal begin to fall out, which makes a bit of a mess in the sink. However, once you get past the petal pieces, it’s a totally mess-free cleanser. The actual scent of the product turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, however. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely does smell like roses and not in a powdery way which can be quite polarizing. It just doesn’t have that certain something that takes it from “oh yeah, this smells like roses” to “can I implant this scent in my nose???” In terms that might actually be helpful to someone that hasn’t smelled this product in-person, it’s more of a creamy rose scent than a fresh, zingy rose scent. I personally prefer the latter, so I didn’t love the scent as much as I expected to, but personal preferences may cause you to feel differently about it.

It’s a low pH cleanser in a convenient form that offers a bit of lighthearted, indulgent skincaretainment, and does so in an elegant, approachable way. What’s not to love? Well, if you have sensitive or acne prone skin, the ingredient list may pose a bit of a problem.

Ingredients: Glycerol, Water, Orange Peel Oil, Lime Peel Oil, Lemon Peel Oil, Green Tea Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, Basil Oil, Ylang Ylang Flower Oil, Majoram Oil, Fermented Damask Rose Extract, Apricot Seed Oil, Olive OIl, Sunflower Oil, Betaine, Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid, Camellia Oil, Tocopheral, Rose Flower Water, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauryl Betaine

There are a couple of known acne triggers in this product, chiefly coconut oil and lauric acid. Lauric acid is an ingredient which is typically thought to be helpful for acne sufferers because it reduces the amount of P. acnes bacteria on the skin and the inflammation that is causes. Lauric acid is also part of the chemical composition of coconut oil (used here as a cleansing agent), which is why you may have heard that coconut oil is good for acne. However, both coconut oil and the derivative, lauric acid, are potentially comedogenic, meaning that they can clog your pores and cause breakouts. Since there are properties of these ingredients which make them potentially helpful and/or harmful for acne sufferers, unfortunately the only way to test whether you personally have a sensitivity to these ingredients is to use products that contain them and see if you have a reaction. If you’re unsure whether or not you have sensitivities to the these ingredients, I highly encourage you to patch test. I, uh, patch test with my whole face (whut? it’s a patch of skin… kinda.), so if you’re very concerned about breakouts, do as I say and not as I do.

For many people, the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick will work wonders because of the pH and the gentle cleansing ingredients, but for others like me, you may find yourself with a fresh bouquet of zits decorating your face. Loads of other people I love and trust have had great experiences with this cleanser, so I’m obviously the exception.

I knew almost immediately that this cleanser was breaking me out, but just to be sure, I continued to test it on one side of my face, while using a cleanser by First Aid Beauty that I had used previously and knew wouldn’t cause any breakouts on the other side. The side I used the First Aid Beauty cleanser on began to heal up, while the side I used the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick on continued to break out until I quit using it completely a week later. In total, my test period was 2-3 weeks and I didn’t introduce any other new products during the test phase.

It was also a bit drying for my skin, but that’s a problem I have with the majority of cleansers. This cleanser is sudsy (think typical hand soap) rather than foamy, so if you like large piles of foam, this probably isn’t for you.

Despite the breakout it caused, I do think this is a nice product. If I hadn’t had a reaction to it, I would still be using it, but unfortunately I seem to have bought myself an expensive shaving soap. For the record, it totally does work well for shaving so if it didn’t work out for you and you were unable to return it, at least there’s an alternative. I bought mine on Amazon Prime (so I’m certain it’s authentic due to Prime’s rigorous verification standards) for $24, but it retails anywhere from $21-37 depending on where you purchase it from.

The breakdown:

You’ll probably like this cleanser if:

  • you like creamy rose scents
  • you’re looking for a travel-friendly cleanser
  • you want a low pH cleanser
  • you don’t have a sensitivity to any of the ingredients
  • you’re especially interested in luxury Korean skincare and don’t mind a bit of a splurge
  • you have normal to oily skin (this would probably be too drying for dry skin)
Approach with caution if:
  • you like some rose scents but not all
  • you have acne prone/sensitive skin
  • you’re riding in on the hype train shouting “Choo, Choo!!” While this is a nice cleanser, you don’t absolutely need it. Weigh your options and consider whether or not you truly think this cleanser will work well for you before shelling out the $21+.
Avoid completely if:
  • you hate rose scents (Duh.)
  • the price tag makes your eyes bulge (also duh. While I do like this cleanser, if it’s not an absolute must-have for you, I’d say don’t spluge on it. There are loads of other low pH cleansers that cost way less.)
  • you only like cleansers that create mountains of foam without a foaming net
  • you’re sensitive to or allergic to any of the ingredients
  • you have dry skin

I hope this review was helpful to you. If you’d like, you can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.

on
February 10, 2016

MaskBox: Sheet Mask Subscription Box Review February 2016

Today I’ve got a brand new subscription box to share with you!

Maskbox is a monthly sheet mask subscription box. Each month you will receive between 2-6 masks, depending on the plan you choose. Plans start at $10. I’ll discuss the subscription options in more detail down below. Maskbox is based in Los Angeles and ships between the 5th and the 8th every month. The plan that I chose for my first month is the Combo Box, which contains 3 masks and retails for $10/month.

Disclosure: I purchased this product with my own money. All views expressed are my own, authentic opinions and experiences with the product. This post does not contain any affiliate links.


My MaskBox arrived in a sturdy cardboard envelope, with this cardboard pouch inside. It folds out to reveal the contents.

Bonus points for spelling my name correctly!

It contained a small note card, a sheet explaining how to use a sheet mask, and three masks.

February 2016 Combo MaskBox

 The Combo MaskBox is essentially a variety pack. The other box options are aimed at specific needs, such as anti-aging, or concepts, such as the Luxury MaskBox. Since I like to use a little bit of everything, I thought the Combo box would be the best fit for me.

These are the two Valsarea masks, Pearl on the left, and Royal Jelly on the right.
The first two masks are from the same brand, Valsarea, which I had never heard of before. I really appreciate that they’ve put in some masks that are more difficult to get in the U.S since many subscriptions tend to repeat the same brands and products. They’ve also translated the ingredients into English, which is really important for anyone who has any sensitivities or allergies. 
The downside to these being less well-known masks is that it’s difficult to track down any additional info on them, such as their price. I wasn’t able to find an active listing for either of these Valsarea masks anywhere, so I have absolutely no idea what their retail value is. What I can tell you is that they’re manufactured by Samsung and are sometimes also listed under the brand “FD Agency.” Valsarea has a physical store located in Tokyo. That’s where the info ends, unfortunately. I’ve tried numerous search terms, as well as the Korean and Japanese Google sites, but turned up very little. 
As for my personal experiences with these two masks, my feelings are a bit mixed. 

Valsarea Pure Essence Royal Jelly Sheet Mask

Price: edit 3/13/16— MaskBox is now selling a 10 pack of these for $30 on their website, so approximate value is $3. Still no idea what they sell for in Japan or any other Asian countries that have access to the Valsarea brand.

Experience:

When I took it out of the package, it was soaked with clear essence, and there was about 1.5 teaspoons remaining in the packet. The mask was made from a slightly stiff cotton, but not so stiff that it was uncomfortable. It didn’t adhere well to my chin, but was fine everywhere else, aided by the small slits that made it adjustable. At first, the smell was sharp, almost a bit vinegary, which I think was the royal jelly. It quickly became a sweeter, softer smell after I applied it to my face. It was light, but noticeable for the duration of use. I kept the mask on for about 30 minutes, at which point it had started to dry out. The remaining serum was non-sticky and absorbed quickly. Afterwards, my skin felt hydrated and soft.
Didn’t adhere well to the chin and was a bit big above the lip, but that’s a common problem for me since I have so little space between my nose and my upper lip.

Thoughts:

I liked it, but I don’t see myself repurchasing (assuming that I could actually find it anywhere). It was effective for hydrating the skin, and I really enjoyed the scent, but the fit wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t a bad mask, I just have others that I like a lot better. I don’t actually know what the purpose of the mask is since it’s not anywhere on the packet and there’s no info card included, but judging by the ingredients, I’d say it’s meant to be anti-inflammatory. I didn’t really notice any anti-inflammatory effects, just softer skin.
Totally ripped into this before taking a picture. Oops. Sorry.

Valsarea Pure Essence Pearl Sheet Mask

Price: edit 3/13/16— MaskBox is now selling a 10 pack of these for $30 on their website, so approximate value is $3. Still no idea what they sell for in Japan or any other Asian countries that have access to the Valsarea brand.

Experience: 

My experience with this mask was very similar to the Valsarea Royal Jelly mask. It was soaked with clear essence, with about 1.5 to 2 teaspoons remaining in the packet. It was made from the same stiff cotton, but this mask didn’t have any scent. I wore this one for about 25-30 minutes before it started drying out. When I removed the mask, my skin felt a bit slippery, almost greasy to the touch. Not so much that I felt like something was sitting on my skin or that my skin felt dirty, it just had a bit more of an oily feel. I’d compare it to the slight bit of oil that’s left behind from an oil cleanser if you don’t remove it properly. My pores appeared to be a bit less noticeable, but that was the only effect that I noticed from this mask.

Thoughts:

I didn’t really enjoy this one. I preferred the texture and scent of the Royal Jelly mask, plus I felt like it did more for my skin. I had the same problem with this mask: no idea what it’s supposed to do. Pearl is often used in brightening masks, so that’s my best guess.

Nature Republic Real Nature Shea Butter Sheet Mask

Price: $1.60-1.99 (not including shipping)

Experience:

This mask was a thin cotton, soaked in a milky essence. There was very little essence left in the package, maybe a dime-sized amount. It had a light scent that reminded me of baby powder. I’m not a fan of powdery scents, but surprisingly this didn’t bother me while I was wearing the mask. The fit was good, it conformed to my face nicely and didn’t have any major gaps, though it did stick up a little where it met my hairline. I wore this one for 35 minutes, but easily could have worn it for another 10-15. My face was cold from the heater coming on (blows cold air first, stupid electric heat) and I wanted to go to sleep. The essence was very hydrating, which allowed me to skip moisturizer that night. It did leave a little bit of a sticky feeling, like lotion before it’s dry, but I could only feel it when I touched my face. It didn’t end up being a problem, and trust me, if it had, I’d have woken up with cat hair stuck to my face. Luckily, I didn’t.

A bit too big for my face, but a good fit overall.

Thoughts:

This was my favorite of the three, and I would definitely repurchase this. I actually haven’t tried any of the Nature Republic Real Nature masks before, but after using this one, I plan to try the full line. The fit was very comfortable and it did a great job of hydrating my skin. This one did include a description in English on the packet: “shea butter nourishes the skin with a luminous glow,” which I definitely agree with.

Subscription Options:

$10/month. 3 masks per box. Choose from Hydration, Brightening, Anti-Aging, or Combo. 
$20/month. 6 masks per box. Choose from Hydration, Brightening, Anti-Aging, or Combo. 
$20/month. 2 masks per box. Luxury Box. This box features multi-step masks and hydro-gels. 
$40/month. 4 masks per box. Luxury Box. This box features multi-step masks and hydro-gels.
There is also an option to purchase a specially curated box as a one-time purchase, no subscription necessary. The current offering is the Girls Night In box for $40. Contains 12 masks. 
If you’d like to, you can subscribe here. You can also find MaskBox on Instagram and Twitter.

Final Thoughts:

I really like that they included masks I haven’t seen before, which I think gives them a possible advantage over other sheet mask subscription boxes. I’m curious to see if they’ll continue to send masks that are lesser known, I really hope so! Although the masks weren’t the highest quality, they were something I hadn’t seen before. I appreciate that they included a translation of the ingredients, but in the future I would really like to see some sort of info card included that explained what each mask was for and the retail price. I have no idea what the Valsarea masks cost, so I don’t know how much the total value of the box is**edit 3/13/16 total estimated value of the box is between $7.60-7.99, so for the value, no I would not recommend this subscription** Shipping was super quick since they’re based in Los Angeles. 
Overall, I think MaskBox is off to an ok start, but like any new company, there are a few kinks to work out. I have some mixed feelings, but I want to see how the future mask selections develop. Congrats on the launch Tammy and Bryan!

on
January 13, 2016

Why Do So Many Asian Beauty Products Mention Jeju Island?

As someone who has recently (as in the last 6-8 months) taken the plunge into Asian beauty, I spend an absurd amount of time scouring the internet for info. What can I say, I like rabbit holes. *shrug* My nerdiness makes me want to know ~all the things~, so my spare time has quickly been filled up by reading blog posts and reddit discussions old and new, seeking out trustworthy sources of products and information, and endless amounts of scrolling through site after site in order to understand who has the best prices on what (the discount diva in me strikes again, did someone say ‘free shipping’?) and to get a better feel for what’s out there and what I might want to try next. In all of my nights spent scrolling through TK, RRS, and about 20 other sellers, I’ve seen numerous references to Jeju Island, but its significance to AB is rarely explained outside of promotional info. So, a curious-kitten mission took shape and now here we are, trying to answer the question: What’s the deal with Jeju Island and how does it relate to beauty products?

Jeju Island is located off the coast of South Korea.

Jeju Island (제주도) is a South Korean island, located just south of the mainland in the Korea Strait. It has gone by many names over the years, but you’re most likely to see it referred to as Jeju Island or Jejudo. The island was formed by a volcanic eruption around 2 million years ago, which gives the island some interesting geographic features, such as lava tubes and an abundance of volcanic soil. It’s well known for its natural beauty, and has been named as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The primary industries of the island are agriculture and fishing, which is where it begins to intersect with Asian beauty.

Many cosmetics companies source ingredients from Jeju Island due to the optimal growing conditions, especially the famed purity of Jeju Island, and in some cases, the choice to obtain ingredients from Jeju Island is also influenced by the vibrant folklore, which sometimes plays a role in the marketing of products that feature ingredients from Jeju Island.

Volcanic ash soil on Jeju Island. Source

Volcanic Ash Soil

Volcanic ash soil is what’s left behind long after a volcano has erupted. It’s a porous, lightweight soil, that is usually dark brown in color, and which possesses a higher concentration and diversity of minerals than other soils (“Unique Properties of Volcanic Ash Soils”, Nanzyo, 2002). According to the 20th World Congress of Soil Science,

“Jeju volcanic ash soils become good soils to grow crops because of greater organic matter contents/CEC, better moisture retention and soil aeration.” Source

To put it into plain terms, growing crops in volcanic soil means plants receive more nutrition due to the higher mineral content and the moisture retention of the volcanic ash. Because the volcanic ash is porous, it also helps plants to grow deeper roots. This, along with the relatively mild, humid subtropical climate and lack of pollution lend themselves to excellent harvests of a number of ingredients which are used in many beauty treatments. Growing in volcanic ash soil in the right conditions makes better plants; better plants make better ingredients; and better ingredients make better skincare. It turns out, there’s some legitimacy to the claim that ingredients from Jejudo are superior.

The Mythology of Jeju Island

The rich mythology and the natural beauty of Jeju Island (especially the low level of pollution) also makes for great marketing, and cosmetic companies aren’t hesitating to make good use of it. Although Jeju island has only become a major trend in Korean beauty in the past year or so, major manufacturers have been sourcing ingredients from Jeju Island for quite some time, as is the case with the beauty giant AmorePacific, Korea’s largest cosmetics company, who has owned a green tea farm on the island since 1979. In addition to green tea, Jeju Island also supplies AmorePacific with the red ginseng and bamboo sap used in their skincare products.

AmorePacific explains how it began its relationship with Jeju Island:

Five centuries ago, on the magnificent Pacific Island known as Island of the Gods, a raging volcano left in its wake the most nutrient-rich soil imaginable. Believed to be a gift of the Goddess Yul-ryeo, from this fertile, fruitful soil was grown the most desirable green tea in all of Asia. Tales of its potency were legendary: emissaries traveled for days to reserve and conserve harvests; Asian princesses rubbed the leaf’s powerful essence on their face to maintain their youth.

Six decades ago one man, Sung-Hwan-Suh, had the foresight and perseverance to study the remarkable benefits of these life-giving plants. He pledged to share the amazing antioxidant benefits of these indigenous Korean botanicals with the world.
From South Korea’s Jeju Island, he began what today is his bespoke company’s journey to unearth and evolve this unique, revolutionary science. From this proud heritage, AMOREPACIFIC conceives and achieves strikingly efficacious skincare. Source

The myth that AmorePacific is referencing is an origin myth from the mainland. A more common legend from the people of Jejudo, who developed a culture and mythology different from that of the mainland, is the legend of Grandmother Seolmundae. There are many versions of this myth, and additional stories about Seolmundae, but the version commonly accepted by scholars as being the most accurate is that Seolmundae was a giant goddess who created the island, and who now supports the island by letting it sit atop her body while she watches over the people of Jejudo. Source

Jeju Island in Skincare Products

One of Innisfree’s Jeju-oriented product lines. Source

Innisfree (owned by AmorePacific) also has close ties to Jeju Island. Being an eco-friendly brand, the purity of Jeju ingredients plays an even larger role in the brand’s marketing. Many of the products mention ingredients from Jeju Island, such as the Innisfree Orchid range, which contains an antioxidant obtained from orchid grown on Jeju Island. Innisfree also has a mineral water range which uses water from the Sanbang moutain hot springs on Jeju Island, and a volcanic range which features the mineral-rich volcanic scoria (a type of porous rock similar to pumice) from Jeju. Of course, since Innisfree is owned by AmorePacific, they use green tea from the same farm on Jejudo in their Green Tea Line. Finally, the Jeju Bija range uses bija grown on Jeju. Additionally, the Gamgyul tangerine (native to Jejudo), camellia petals, barley, nutmeg, and several sea plants used in Innisfree products are all sourced from Jeju Island and the surrounding waters. Source

Source

One of the most trendy products in Asian Beauty over the past couple of months has been the Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Soombi Essence Serum, which also uses camellia from Jeju Island. Other well-known brands that use botanical ingredients from Jeju Island include C20 (in the Vitamin Sleep 9 to 5 Crema), PureHeal, Aritaum (the aloe used in their products is grown on Jeju), Ciracle, Its Skin, Mamonde, Mizon, and Nature Republic. You may have also seen Jeju Island mentioned on the SKINFOOD Jeju Tangerine sheet mask, The Face Shop’s Jeju Volcanic line, and The Yeon’s Hallabang line.

The material for konjac sponges is also often sourced from Jeju Island by a number of brands, such as Innisfree, Chica Y Chico, and Boscia.

Horse oil? Also (sometimes) from Jeju Island. The Samsung Mayu Horse Oil Cream uses oil from the horses raised on Jeju Island who, like everything else from Jeju Island, are supposedly more pure. The oil in the Guerisson 9 Complex that’s been the star of the horse oil trend, however, is sourced from Germany.

So what does Jeju Island have to do with Asian beauty products? Damn near everything in a field that’s so heavily driven by ingredients. In the world of beauty products, Jeju Island has become synonymous with purity, and to include the name of Jeju Island on a product indicates quality.

Have you used any products with ingredients from Jeju Island? Let me know in the comments down below.

AmorePacific’s Green Tea farm on Jeju Island. Source

If you’re interested in learning more about Jeju Island, check out some of these links:

  • Tricia Ong from VainGloriousYou took a trip to Jeju Island with Innisfree to get a behind-the-scenes look at their facilities on Jeju Island. She has some amazing photos and information about the ingredients Innisfree uses. I highly recommend reading her post!
  • AmorePacific is working on an amazing project to protect the natural resources of Jeju Island and increase the benefits to the local community, who have suffered losses lately due to an increase in Chinese companies setting up shop on Jeju Island and taking business from the locals. Tourism has become an increasingly important industry on Jeju Island, and I love that AmorePacific is taking steps to protect the community.
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December 17, 2015

[Review] SK-II Essential Power Moisturizing Cream

Today we’re talking about the SK-II Essential Power Moisturizing Cream. I received this product complementary from BzzAgent for review purposes, however all views expressed are my own, authentic opinions. To learn more about my review policies, click here. To learn more about BzzAgent, click here*.
This is a deluxe sample size (0.51 fl. oz./ 15 ml). The full size (shown below) is $215 (yes, two hundred and fifteen dollars) for 2.71 fl.oz. Are your eyes rolling out of your head yet? Mine are. 
Full size of the SK-II Essential Power Moisturizing Cream from the Sephora website. Geez, Sephora, why isn’t your lighting this good in your stores? I’d never go home with the wrong foundation shade again. 
I use a few luxury products and I’m perfectly willing to splurge on a product here and there if the quality is high enough, but good lawd I think this price per ounce ratio falls under the “not even if I won the lotto” category.

The price alone puts me off of this product, but let’s say that you’re feeling a bit spendy or you’re looking for a fancy gift for someone special, and operate under the premise that shelling out the moolah for this product isn’t going to make you hyperventilate.

I initially received this product over the summer, along with a few other products from SK-II, and found that this moisturizer was a bit too heavy for me to use in the summer. I shelved it until fall hit so I could really get a feel for the product. The BzzAgent campaign is long since over, but I wanted to go ahead and review it anyway because I figure, why not? 
Skin type: I’ve got acne-prone, oily-dehydrated skin that can act a bit more like oily skin or a bit more like dry skin depending on its mood, the weather, its horoscope, whether or not Mercury is in retrograde, etc. Basically, my skin is moody. In the fall and winter, it’s pretty consistently dry and I really struggle to keep it hydrated. 
This moisturizer contains glycerin, a humectant, which pulls water from the lower layers of the skin and from the atmosphere, several silicone derivatives which help to keep skin from losing moisture via trans-epidermal water loss, and niacinamide which improves tone and texture, among other things. The star ingredient in this and other SK-II products is saccharomycopsis fernment filtrate, also known as galactomyces ferment filtrate or pitera, which functions as a moisturizer and antioxidant. It’s a type of yeast derived from the fermentation process of the Japanese beverage, sake. SK-II basically bills this as a miracle ingredient in their marketing, but having used both this and their famous Facial Treatment Essence, I’m not sold. This also contains isopropyl isostearate, which is a potential acne trigger, as listed by CosDNA*. I managed to find two studies that listed isopropyl isostearate as being comedogenic, but these studies were both performed on rabbits, and there are many other studies that came to the opposite conclusion, so take that with a grain of salt. Personally, I didn’t find that this product caused breakouts, but as is the case with all skincare, people can have very different reactions to the same ingredients. 
I actually quite liked this moisturizer, especially layered over an oil. It had a very pleasant, creamy texture that felt a lot like water as it was applied to the skin, similar to Belif ‘s The True Cream Aqua Bomb. It has a somewhat odd scent to it, a little bit like a fragrance-free lotion, but with a slight sourness that may come from the pitera. I don’t think the fragrance is anything that anyone would find offensive, but it’s definitely not something I would consider appealing enough to make it a selling point for the product. I’ve completely finished the jar now, and while I enjoyed it while I had it, I don’t intend to purchase the full size. It’s a good moisturizer, but the ingredients and the results I saw (hydration) aren’t enough to get me to keep using the product. If it were available as a sample from Sephora or included in a gift with purchase, I’d happily use it again, but it’s just not a mindblowingly awesome product, and at $215 it damn well better be. As for whether or not I’d recommend it as a splurge for yourself or someone else, I’d say spend the money elsewhere and get a few other high end skincare or makeup products. They’ll feel a lot more special than this product and you’ll get more for your money. 
*Not an affiliate link. Disclosure is cool, yo. 
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December 11, 2015

Skincare Woes and My Introduction to Asian Beauty

To put it quite simply, my skin and I have been duking it out for some time now (the same goes for my hair, but that’s a story for another day). As a teenager, my skin was super oily with the occasional blemish, and, like most teenagers, I used products I probably shouldn’t have to try to combat this (I’m looking at you St. Ives Apricot Scrub!). Around the time I started college, my skin was getting worse and I was rarely without at least one active blemish. I also suffered from the occasional cystic acne spot, probably from sleeping with my makeup on every once in a while. It was like this for a few years, and while it’s never been something that’s bothered me to the point of tears as I know is the case for many acne sufferers, it was frustrating because I felt like my makeup never looked as good as it would have if my skin was smooth and blemish free, and I felt like I always had to wear foundation.

Around two years ago, I discovered BzzAgent and was lucky enough to receive a few Paula’s Choice trial kits* from their Clear acne-fighting line in both the regular and extra strength versions.  I’d already heard good things about their products, so I was excited to try them. This was also my first experience with a leave-on salicylic acid treatment, and using this line of products helped me to discover that my skin really needs a bit of extra help to properly shed dead skin cells. While these products definitely helped my skin, they didn’t really solve all of my problems, and the only one I felt compelled to keep using was the 2% salicylic acid treatment. What made the biggest difference was finally having an explanation of what certain ingredients did for the skin and why many of the most popular products on the market can actually be damaging your skin more than helping it. Now, before any of you start worrying that this is going to spiral into me claiming that Paula is my skincare goddess and has all the answers, rest assured, I don’t pray at the PC altar. In my opinion, some people are a bit too excitable about the Paula’s Choice brand and the information provided by the Beautypedia*. I’m not saying they don’t make good products, they do, and if this is the first you’ve heard of the brand, I’d still recommend checking the website out because there may be something there that will help you with your own skincare needs. I’m just saying that PC is not the be-all, end-all of skincare and that you should consider multiple sources. Another point of contention with the Beautypedia is that even though they claim to be unbiased reviews, they tend to be a bit snarky with some products, and there’s no denying that they, as a business selling skincare products, have something to gain from telling you that other products are shit. There’s still a lot of good information there and their products work wonderfully for a lot of people, just take everything with a grain of salt and do some of your own research if you’re looking to get serious about skincare.

For the most part, my skin has remained about the same for the past couple of years, so here’s a quick little profile of my skin: acne-prone, oily-dehydrated with a sharp decline in hydration in the colder months and a bit more surface oil during the warmer months. In addition to acne, I struggle with texture a lot. My skin doesn’t really like retinol, physical exfoliants, and isn’t very responsive to benzoyl peroxide. My skin loves acids, and I wouldn’t consider it to be particularly sensitive, but it is somewhat reactive within 2-3 days if it doesn’t like a product. My forehead and nose are oily, and my cheeks and chin are dry, with my chin being the worst of it. I also have a particularly stubborn dry patch on the inner corner of my lift eyelid that likes to make an appearance every winter. I consider my skin to be oily-dehydrated rather than combination because even in my oily areas, makeup tends to sit a bit funny and emphasize the lack of hydration in the skin underneath. My breakouts aren’t restricted to any particular area of my face, but they’re most common on my cheeks. My pores tend to be average to slightly larger than average, so they’re not one of my main concerns, but I do have a few fine lines beginning to form that I’d like to prevent from getting any worse.

I haven’t really had a set range of products in my skincare routine because I’m still looking for the perfect products in most categories, but I always double cleanse if I wear makeup (more on why and how I double cleanse another day, I’m trying not to chat your ear, um, eyes? off), and I always wear sunscreen if I’m leaving the house. Other than that, my skincare has included the use of a BHA for 2+ years, and an AHA for ~1 year, both of which I feel make a significant difference in the appearance and texture of my skin. I switch cleansers a lot as I get samples of new things because I have yet to find one that really wows me, and after my most recent adventure in the rabbit hole, I’ve begun to search for a cleanser with the proper pH, which is, again, something that will be discussed further in another post.

A few of the products currently in rotation. 

A recent addition to my skincare arsenal has been sheet masks, which yet again, was introduced to me by BzzAgent (you can learn more about BzzAgent here*, if you’re so inclined, and no, this isn’t at all sponsored or associated with BzzAgent in any way, they just happen to have introduced me to a few skincare products over the years). I’d been somewhat familiar with the Asian beauty trend that majorly took off a few years ago, and had even been following the subreddit* for a few months when BzzAgent sent me a few SK-II products to try, one of which was the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask*.  I’d held off on jumping on the Asian beauty bandwagon for a few reasons, but after using and enjoying this mask, I was intrigued enough to start searching for more sheet masks to try. As for why it took me so long to get on board with AB, first, it’s kind of a lot to take in. Way more steps than a typical western skincare routine, ingredients and products that we don’t really see in the states (first essence? snail? syn-ake?), and so much to learn that it can be overwhelming. For beginners, it’s tough to even find a place to begin.

Also creating apprehension for me was the knowledge that hype trains tend to go flying off the tracks at some point, and I didn’t wanna be in the middle of that hot mess if this happened to be a short-lived, over-hyped trend that came back to bite us all in the ass. A few years later, and Asian beauty is still continuing a meteoric rise, with some sources even claiming that the technology of Asian skincare products is ten or more years in advance of western skincare technology. Whether or not this is actually true, I do know that western BB creams turn me into an Oompa Loompa and that my skin strongly prefers sheet masks to clay-based ones**. Seriously, that Queen Helene Mint Julep mask that everyone seems to love? Get that shit away from me, it makes my face itchy. And the Glam Glow mud masks? Uh-uh, nope. Not a fan of scratching my skin off with tea leaves, thanks. If it works for you, awesome, but my skin and I will be over here bathing in the blood of virgins  fermented broccoli and snail soup, or whatever other goodies I can find in sheet mask form.

Additionally, one of the things that often attracts people to AB had me giving it the side-eye. Yep, I’m talking about the packaging. To my American eyeballs, the cutesy, colorful, exciting packaging translated to “this product is crap, so we had to do something gimmicky to get you to buy it”. Have no doubt, some of it is gimmicky and/or overhyped, but AB offers me a more customizable, ingredient-focused, results-driven approach to skincare that I’m really beginning to love. The final thing that kept me away from AB for so long was that there’s kind of a barrier to entry, though far less so than there used to be. When I first started hearing rumblings about AB, there were very few ways to get your grubby little mitts on these products stateside, and even now, you often have to pay a pretty penny for shipping or spend $50+ to hit the free shipping threshold, which is sometimes more than I’m willing to spend in one go. I may use a few very expensive products (oh, Sunday Riley, how I love you so), but I’m a discount diva at heart and will often build a cart only to get cold feet when I see the shipping costs. I’ll do a round up of different places you can purchase AB once I have more experience with different sellers, but for now, I can happily recommend both Beauteque* and Beautius* as sellers with fair prices for products, low shipping costs, and a positive buying experience.

My skincare routine will probably never be entirely AB, but I am very interested in the Korean layering techniques and will be incorporating a lot of this into my skincare routine in the months to come. I’m by no means an expert in AB or skincare in general, so we’ll be learning together as I share the results of my research and my experiences with you all here on the blog. What have your experiences been with AB so far? Are you someone who has yet to take the plunge, an excited beginner like me, or do you have an entire drawer dedicated to sheet masks, essences, and ampoules? Leave a comment and let me know! I love to talk, obviously. Also, cheers to you if you made it to the end of this post, it was a long one. You’re my favorite.

*That’s a non-affiliate link, btw. Disclosure is cool, yo.
**I do occasionally use a few clay-based masks, such as the Origins Clear Improvements Charcoal mask*, but most of the time I only use them as spot treatments. Thankfully, the Origins mask doesn’t make me itchy like the Queen Helene one does.