Beauty Review: COSRX x Charlotte Cho Triple C Lightning Liquid

So I actually forgot to mention this beauty in my recent round-up of skincare things I like for a very simple reason: it’s quite easy to forget. Despite the attempts at making the packaging look luxe, and the hype that was generated prior to its release, this is not a terribly glamorous or exciting product. It’s a vitamin C serum. Like dietary sources of vitamin C (i.e., fruits and vegetables), it’s rather something you use everyday because you know its good for you, but that you don’t necessarily expect rapid, earth-shattering results from. Oh, I know it’s an acid, so it can provide exfoliation, but honestly, I use vitamin C for the long game, not the short-term.

And yet, I realized the other day that for the last month, my skin has been particularly well-behaved. No major breakouts, just one hormonal spot at the expected time, and even that has healed up rather quickly, with the marks fading nicely. And, honestly, the last thing I added to my testing routine was this serum. So go figure.

Anyway, let us back up. I bought this because it’s a touch cheaper than my current vitamin C serum, and it’s actually a low-pH, L-AA serum, so it’s made with the stuff that has the studies behind it in terms of collagen-building. I was frankly dubious about its claims of stability, so I do keep mine in the fridge, but I’ve seen only a mild color change from completely clear to ever-so-slightly-champagne colored over the last month. It certainly has a long way to go before I would consider tossing it. Compare that to the mini Drunk Elephant serum that came the color of orange blossom honey, and I’m honestly impressed.

The bottle is quite pretty. It’s a very, very deep indigo color, almost black, but with just enough color that you can see it when the fridge light shines through it just so. The gold-rimmed dropper is a nice touch. It would look lovely sitting on my vanity, if I would dare leave it out of the fridge (not specific to this serum; I store any L-AA serum in the cold). My only complaint is that there is a bit of crystallization that happens in the dropper, which did start to clog it after a few weeks, but I poked it out with a clean pin and continued on my merry way. A minor annoyance at worst.

The product itself is very watery, with an ever-so-slight “chemical” smell to it (but of course, I’m not alarmed because everything is chemicals). It feels light and refreshing on the face, with a slight amount of “slip,” but I attribute that to the fact that it is quite acidic and I find acidic things feel lightly conditioning on the skin and hair. I felt a slight tingle the first few times I use it, and now if I use it after a breakout, I might feel one or two pricks, but nothing remotely resembling “stinging.” It dries down quickly and I don’t experience any stickiness. I find it comfortable enough to not put on hydrating toner right away, so I try to give this 10-20 minutes to sit before I continue with my routine in the morning.

A note about timing usage: Soko Glam recommends using this at night because it is acidic enough to exfoliate. The fact is that AHA exfoliants cause sun sensitivity for days after application, so your level of sun sensitivity will not change whether you use it in the morning or at night. I also use a 15% lactic acid three times a week at night, so I keep this in the morning. And I like the idea of putting on antioxidants early in the day so their activity is high during peak sun hours. But that’s your choice.

Anyway, I apply it directly after my morning cleanser, which is with a low-pH cleanser, so I don’t bother with pH-adjusting toner first. I let it sit while I meditate or make matcha or gather my lunch supplies. On days when I go to the gym, I might just walk out of the house with just this on my face (if it’s humid) because I go to the gym before sunrise. Otherwise, I give it maybe 15-20 minutes of wait time and then continue with the rest of my morning routine. And, yes, I always use sunscreen during the day.

So far, with relatively generous daily usage, I’ve made it through about a third of the bottle in a month, which is about right for vitamin C. And I definitely see myself repurchasing this when I finish the bottle.

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Skincare Things I’m Trying and Kind of Loving Right Now

So, I haven’t done a real skin care review in a while, and part of that is that, yes, I’ve been writing about my Scottish honeymoon, but I’ve also been feeling a bit uninspired with skin care lately. But I have been using a few new things that have helped keep the love alive, so I thought I’d share a brief overview of some of the things in my testing routine right now.

A’pieu Madecassoside Cream: I got this on a whim based on Tracy’s glowing review of it over at Fanserviced-B. Did I really need another cream? Not really. I’m pretty ride-or-die for Stratia Liquid Gold. But… it’s been really hot and humid and I wondered if maybe something lighter would be nice for the mornings, particularly under my more mattifying sunscreen. So I grabbed a tube from Jolse. It smells like herbal lemony goodness and goes on feather-light. So far I’m definitely finding reasons to use it. Full review will be forthcoming, and barring any unforeseen breakouts, it’s going to be glowing.

Moonlit Skincare Midnight Shift Facial Oil: I keep seeing this on Instagram. I’m intrigued by the concept. And I can always use a little help getting to sleep, particularly on those nights when I’m in bed before 10 because I know my alarm is going off before 6am the next day. Well, I bought the 14-day trial kit and before I was even halfway through, I ordered the full size. It smells like lavender Earl Grey tea, goes on like a dream, and so far has not given me any problems. Expect another glowing review forthcoming.

COSRX One-Step Moisture-Up Kit: My original thought with these was that they would be great for travel, particularly when we go and spend a weekend at my in-laws’ place. But of course I need to test them a bit first, and I’m finding them fantastic for days when I’m working from home but I go for a morning run. I get back, shower, wash up with the foaming cleanser, apply the Moisture-Up pad, and then slap on the sheet mask until my face goes from beet-red to magenta (I tend to go all splotchy when I exercise, especially outside in the heat). Very nice and relaxed and I don’t actually have to faff about with bottles and things at my vanity. But let’s see how they do for travel as well…

Blossom Jeju Pink Camellia Toner: I bought this because the scent of the Blossom Jeju masks were like my favorite thing ever. And I wanted to bottle that and be able to slap it on my face whenever I want. But of course it’s $45 for a pretty small bottle, so I don’t tend to use it as often as I do my other toners. But for days when I need a pick-me-up more than a deep hydration treatment? It’s amazing. Not sure I’ll splurge on it again, though.

So that’s about it for now. This is kind of half a preview of reviews to come and half a ramble about what I like for my face right now. If anyone’s curious about my further thoughts, ask, and if anyone has any suggestions for anything inspiring, I’m open to suggestions.

Beauty Review: I’m From Ginseng Serum

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have not been given any incentive, monetary or otherwise, to review it.

So this review has been a bit of a long time coming. I first saw this serum on Wishtrend when they were recruiting testers. I didn’t get selected to test the product, but I was interested enough to buy it when it was released. Unfortunately, that was right before my wedding and honeymoon, so the testing process was delayed and then interrupted. But I’ve been using it for a month (minus the week of my honeymoon), including three weeks uninterrupted at this point, so I’m going to give you my thoughts.

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The short review is that, honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with this. I mean, my skin has been looking good lately, but it doesn’t really correlate with using this product (it continued to improve while I was on my honeymoon without it).

Alright, so here’s the deal with the I’m From Ginseng serum. It has 7.98% red Korean ginseng extract (although the word “extract” can be variable in strength), along with a bunch of other extracts and oils to help aging and dull skin. Its color definitely convinces me that it’s pretty packed with herbal-y goodness (and there are no explicit coloring agents in the ingredients list), and it includes extracts like licorice and peony (for brightening) as well as green tea and adenosine (for anti-aging). Ordering the serum was uneventful, particularly since the serum is in Wishtrend’s “Free Shipping” area and the only thing I paid for was a couple dollars for a tracking number. It arrived in a couple weeks, actually sooner than I had expected.

When it arrived, I swatched a little on my hand to see that it is a viscous liquid/thin gel, with a pale brown color and a distinct floral scent. Honestly, I wish they hadn’t put a fragrance in it, as the fragrance is the primary reason I’m not terribly thrilled with it. I’m a lover of floral scents, but this has a powdery, artificial floral scent to it that isn’t terribly pleasant when doing my (largely unscented) evening routine.

I find the serum lightly hydrating and not sticky. I dispense four drops into my palm, spread it between my hands and then press onto my skin. I only applied this in the evenings, after actives and hydrating toner, and before facial oil and emulsion/cream. If I sheet mask, I apply it under the sheet mask. At this point, I’ve been using it for about three weeks uninterrupted since my honeymoon, plus an additional week before I left on my honeymoon.

And, honestly, meh.

The main thing I notice is the smell. I’ve noticed a decrease in acne and an overall increased brightness in my skin, but it’s something that has been going on pretty steadily for the last few months, and hasn’t been markedly more pronounced since using this serum. And, as I mentioned before, I actually saw the effect pick up while I was in Scotland with an incredibly abbreviated routine, not using this serum. So I’m honestly not convinced that this serum really does much for anti-aging or brightening.

I do have some early signs of aging (I’m only 34, guys), including a deep-ish forehead wrinkle and some fine lines around my eyes, as well as some PIH from acne on my jawline. But I honestly think that increasing my hydration with multiple applications of hydrating toner, as well as using acids regularly has done more to decrease these things than this serum.

In short, I will not be repurchasing this.

A Hectic Weekend and a Skin Care Retreat

This weekend was pleasantly busy. We started with a Friday date night at our favorite Japanese restaurant, then went to a wedding Saturday night for two of Boyfriend’s friends, and capped it off by getting brunch with an old friend of mine Sunday late morning. Boyfriend was running about prepping for a business trip Sunday night, and was throwing laundry in so he could pack. At which point, he realized he couldn’t find his phone. We tried calling it from my phone, but he remembered he’d never taken off “Do Not Disturb” after the wedding ceremony Saturday. But after about an hour, he did finally find it.

In the washer. After the cycle had finished.

He washed his phone right before going out of town. Needless to say, he felt frustrated with himself and I was mildly irritated that he was going to effectively be out of contact while traveling. It almost turned into a fight while tensions were high.

But instead, I say “screw this” to myself and decided to do a mask. Now, I usually mask on Sunday nights, but I had bumped my masking up to Saturday so I could be dewy for the wedding (which happened in a downpour, so dewiness wasn’t really a trick). But I have a stash of 50 masks and even though some of them might be fancy or expensive, there’s not really much point in buying nice masks if I don’t use them, right?

So I double-cleansed, toned, applied some first essence, and then pulled out an illi Orchid Moisturizing mask. A lush, 2-piece, microfiber mask soaked in an surprisingly thin, wet essence that smells lightly of a beautiful flower garden. It was cooling and soothing and lifted my spirits while I just lounged for almost an hour. And when I peeled it off and topped off with some facial oil and cream, I felt so much of my frustration just disappear.

Self care. It’s a wonderful thing.

A New Kind of Herbalism

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve long had an interest in traditional, herbal-based remedies. While I certainly go to the doctor when I’m very sick, for more minor complaints, I often try an herbal remedy before anything else. For example, when my recent terrible sore throat came back negative for strep, I turned to herbal remedies to soothe and heal it in the absence of any allopathic intervention. I also love to use herbal and DIY remedies for skin care, though I’ve moved a bit away from that since discovering that many homemade skin care products are not exactly what my skin needs. But since discovering Asian beauty and skin care products, I’ve gotten more into the traditional healing side of Asian skin care and health.

Specifically, I’ve discovered the joy of Hanbang products. Hanbang is Korean traditional medicine. It is very similar to Chinese traditional medicine, although it does have a distinct lineage. One of the most common practices is the use of teas, particularly those based around ginseng and other prized roots. Ginseng, ginger, licorice, Korean angelica, and Solomon’s seal are some of the favored roots in Hanbang teas, as well as remedies such as jujube, persimmon, Schizandra, and citron teas. I actually had a coworker offer me a spoonful of Korean citron marmalade to make a cup of citron honey tea when I was feeling unwell. The bitterness of the citron peel mixes well with the tart citrus taste and sweet honey. I find it far superior to regular lemon-and-honey tea, honestly.

Additionally, I like to use herbal infusions and teas as a way to support healthy body function. I was drinking at least two cups a day of spearmint infusion for the last month, as it is supposed to help balance hormones and improve both hormonal mood swings and hormonal skin issues. As hormonal acne on my chin is the one condition that resists my routine’s improving influence, I thought it was worth a try. Now, armed with some research about traditional Asian medicines, I’ve added to my morning brew. I add ginger to help with circulation, as the temperature in my office hovers somewhere between bone-chilling and simply fingertip-numbing. Goji berries add an interesting flavor, as well as a host of nutrients. I cannot bring myself to eat goji berries, but adding them to tea seems a reasonable way to reap their benefits. Finally, dong quai, which is known as “female ginseng” or “the Empress of herbs” in traditional Chinese medicine, helps support the hormone-balancing action of the spearmint. Unfortunately, it also has a strong flavor reminiscent of celery and may be better suited to an herbal broth than a tea. I do find that this upgraded blend is more invigorating in the morning than spearmint alone, though I have not used it long enough to determine any other benefits.

I’m excited to have found new remedies to bring into my herbal cabinet and look forward to more experimentation. Please share any favorite herbal remedies you might have!

A Floral Treat for Dry Skin: The Mamonde Flower Essence Rose Moisturizing Mask

This is just going to be a little review of a mask I tried last night and loved. As those who read my blog know, I’m a sucker for florals, especially roses. My signature perfume is rose, I have roses on my desk, and I wear rose earrings. And I love any kind of rose-scented skin care. Sadly, I’ve recently switched from my lovely Andalou 1,000 Roses day cream to CeraVe PM as a moisturizer, so I don’t get my daily dose of rosy loveliness. And Sephora seems to be phasing out my favorite rose sheet masks (which are overpriced anyway). So I was excited to get some recommendations for rose sheet masks from Asia.

I decided to order a 5-pack of the Mamonde Flower Essence Rose Moisturizing masks from Amazon, which came last week. The package immediately appealed, with a simple picture of softly pastel pink roses and simple writing. Mamonde seems like a company that melds well with my own personal aesthetic, in addition to having some widely-liked flower-based products. Last night, I decided to do a full facial routine, so I settled in for an hour and a half of real pampering. I double cleansed and then applied my salicylic acid serum, which I let sit for 20 minutes. Then, I did a clay mask. I just used a little hydrated Redmond clay. This I washed off after 15 minutes, then toned with some alcohol-free witch hazel. Then, the rose mask.

Immediately upon opening the packet, I noticed that the essence was thick and creamy and smelled lightly of roses. It was not a heavy or cloying scent. It smelled like walking past a cluster of rose bushes on a spring day. As I put the mask on my face, I noticed it was a nice, thick material, but not so thick it slid off under its own weight. Perhaps the thick lotion that soaked the mask helped it adhere. I found myself utterly relaxed. I sometimes have trouble with boredom while masking and generally leave a mask on only 20 minutes sometimes. This mask left me so blissful, I found 30 minutes had passed before I realized it. I checked and the mask was still quite moist, but I had to get to bed, so I removed it. The leftover lotion was almost sticky, like a thick moisturizer rather than an essence. I didn’t feel the need to do most of my routine after that, so I just applied my facial oil to lock in all the hydration.

The real surprise came this morning as I walked down the stairs to go running. As I turned on the light to find my shoes, I caught a look in the mirror and was amazed. The few residual spots leftover from a monthly breakout were completely gone and my skin had a bit of a glow, rather than the sheen of leftover oil and nightly sweat. All in all, this is a lovely mask.