Beauty Review: A’pieu Madecassoside Cream

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been provided no incentive to review it. All opinions are my own.

I mentioned this in my recent round-up of things that I’ve been enjoying, but I thought I’d take some time to share more thoughts on this little cream. Like many things, I bought this after an enabling review by Tracy at Fanserviced-B. I liked the idea of a moisturizer that was hydrating, soothing, dried matte, didn’t have any potential acne triggers, and was around $12 for a tube.

I found it on Jolse with free shipping and ordered it along with a couple other things I’d been eyeing. It took a few weeks to arrive from Korea. When it arrived, I immediately opened it to smell it because isn’t that what everyone does with new skin care? Squirt it on your hand, rub it around, and sniff?

Anyway, the smell is fresh, clean, slightly herbal-medicinal, and thoroughly inoffensive. The texture was thicker than I expected for a cream free of emollients and doesn’t have the “water drop” effect of many gel-creams. It spreads easily, sinks in quickly, and dries down to a semi-matte finish, but without any hint of dry feeling on the skin. It’s brilliant under sunscreen because the ever-so-slightly moist feeling it leaves plays well with lightweight, alcohol-containing sunscreens. But I’ve used it under my alcohol-free Canmake Mermaid UV Skin Gel with great success, too.

I also find it mildly soothing, although at the end of the day, it shines as a simple, inexpensive hydrating cream. I mostly use it during the day over hydrating toner and under sunscreen and makeup, but I’ve also used it as a final nighttime step on the few really sticky nights this summer. I even find that the finish is non-greasy enough that COSRX Master Patches will stick over it. And finally, I’ve been using it for over a month now with no indication that it has any negative effects. I’m definitely planning to repurchase this, as I’m curious how it will hold up over the winter.

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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.

Beauty Review: Naruko Rose & Botanic HA Aqua Cubic Hydrating Mask

NB: This product was provided to me for review, but all thoughts are my own.

When I was emailing with Rachel from Naruko, it came up that I was unlikely to test the magnolia masks she sent me before my wedding because they contain an ingredient to which I sometimes react poorly. Now, it’s the sort of thing that usually takes prolonged exposure, but I didn’t want to take any risks before the wedding. In her infinite generosity, she suggested sending me a few of their Rose & Botanic HA Aqua Cubic Hydrating Masks to try in the meantime. Being a lover of all things floral, I leapt at the offer.

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I first tried this mask on a night when I’d had a fight with someone over the phone and was in a foul mood. I’d been crying a little and was just generally feeling terrible. I must say, the delightful rose scent of this mask lifted my spirits and helped me feel just a little better.

That said, I found that the scent was the only thing this mask had to recommend it. I was a bit worried, since the mask does contain a drying alcohol, but I thought that perhaps the multitude of hydrating ingredients would offset that. Unfortunately, while I didn’t find that the mask dried out or irritated my skin, it didn’t really do much to improve it either.

I did find that the mask calmed down my skin, but no more than just laying a cool, damp cloth over it. I was disappointed, given how lovely it smells, but I just didn’t find anything to really love about this mask. I wouldn’t buy it again.

If you’re looking for a nice rose-scented mask that isn’t overwhelming, and has a nice hydrating and brightening effect, I really like the LoveMore Rosa Hybrida mask. And hopefully the next mask I try from Naruko will be another winner.

Beauty Review: Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Boosting Ampoule (with Wrinkle and Pore Effectors)

Say that one five times fast. Despite a mouthful of a name, the ampoule alone isn’t much to write home about. But I was intrigued when I learned about the concept. You buy the base ampoule, and then you buy tubes of “effectors,” which are concentrated shots of ingredients targeted at one concern. You can then add the effectors into the base ampoule to create a custom ampoule for your skin concerns.

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I was tempted enough to buy it. It’s just such a cool idea, plus I’ve been curious to try more Innisfree products, despite their fondness for filling a product with more fragrance than substance. Well, this seems like a bit of an exception. While the base ampoule itself is relatively simple (solvents, humectants, penetration-enhancers, etc.), the effectors had some interesting ingredients (although full ingredients lists don’t seem to be available). I went with the Wrinkle effector, which boasts a blend of peptides and adenosine, as well as the Pore effector, whose star ingredient is catechin, one of the antioxidants in tea. Seems like a fated match, right? I ordered the product from the company Jolse, where the ampoule and two effectors cost about $25 when various, publicly-available discounts are taken into account. It got to me in just under three weeks. I started testing it on April 8th and have been using it for about a month now to gauge results.

The first thing I noticed upon opening it was that there is absolutely no scent at all. For those who are familiar with Innisfree products, this is kind of a big deal. Innisfree has released some new products recently with a focus on less fragrance and sensitive skin types, so perhaps this is going to become a new direction for the company. Neither the base ampoule nor either of the effectors had any detectable scent, and I really sniffed hard to try to find something.

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The base ampoule is 25 ml of product in a 40-ml bottle, to allow for the extra volume of the effectors (so don’t be surprised if your bottle only looks just over half full), and each effector is 7 ml, so two effectors is probably the most you should add, for space reasons. It’s likely that Innisfree designed the products to work well with the base ampoule and two effectors, so that’s what I did. The base ampoule is a clear liquid that’s a bit more viscous than water. The Wrinkle effector is a thin, creamy liquid, and the Pore effector is a clear gel. I did find that the effector formulas were thick enough to get stuck in the neck of the ampoule bottle when I tried to add them in, but I think I could avoid this next time by making sure to use the pointy end of the effector tube to poke down beyond the neck of the bottle. The ampoule bottle has a dropper top and a mechanism to wipe off drips from the dropper.

I used this product at least once a day, often twice a day, at a rate of 4-5 drops per application. At this rate, I have used just over half the bottle, so I think that with daily usage, you would likely get over two months out of a bottle, and with twice daily usage, just over a month. I found that for the first few days to a week, my skin really soaked up the serum and it was easiest to apply drops directly to my face and spread it with two fingers to minimize hand absorption. Later on, however, I felt like I could get even coverage by dispensing into the palm of my hand and pressing the serum into my face. This was the only serum I used during the testing period, other than my vitamin C in the mornings.

As far as effects go, I didn’t notice any miracles, but then I wasn’t expecting any. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the effects I did notice. The product is at least as effective at keeping my forehead line at bay as my Hylamide SubQ, for a significant financial savings. It also seemed like my clogged pores diminished, although not to the point where it showed up on camera. I did take before and after photos, but I noticed no difference between them, so the positive effects were subtle. I’m curious to see how my skin reacts to stopping using this, as that’s often the only test that will tell you what subtle results a product is having.

I would say that if you’re interested in this product and the price doesn’t seem dear to you, it’s a nice product for the cost. It won’t work anti-aging miracles, but it is a nice booster to a good anti-aging regime.

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have not received any incentive to review it. All thoughts are my own.

Beauty Review: My New Favorite Multitasker

I never thought I would be one of those women who waxed rhapsodic about a toner. But here we are. I recently bought the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner on a whim because I needed a hydrating layer and had been investigating the “seven-skin” method, where you apply multiple layers of a hydrating toner to help plump up your skin without a heavy moisturizer. The Klairs toner was recommended often enough, I decided to give it a try.

Oh my.

This toner belies its humble name. Some people consider toner next to worthless, a throwback to a time when we believed that dousing our faces in drying alcohol would rid us of our skincare sins, or else a subtle insult to the power of our cleansers. In a world of double cleansing and avoidance of irritants, why would we still need the toner? It turns out that toners can be different things to different people, and to some people, a toner is a light, liquidy layer of hydration. Some women in Seoul even started patting in seven layers of toner on a humid summer day and skipping any other form of moisturizer, in favor of the light hydration of the toner.

So I tried the Klairs toner and found it not only hydrating (it has a slightly-more-viscous-than-water texture that feels like a cushion of hydration for your face), but also soothing and amazingly relaxing. It has a light lavender scent, but not the sickly sweet version of lavender some cosmetics have. This plays up the herbaceous, spicy notes of lavender. It smells like herbal medicine, almost, and brings down any redness I might have on my face. While it does have anti-acne plant extracts, I cannot honestly say if it really did much to heal my occasional spots, though the red, angry ones do seem maybe a bit less red and angry after I’ve applied it.

I love the texture. I almost always apply at least three layers of this, simply because I love putting on my face. It’s a bit of a hazard because I find myself going through the bottle rather quickly without trying. But the product absorbs so nicely and really does feel like it is prepping my skin to absorb whatever comes next, be it a serum, sheet mask, or my beloved Liquid Gold.

All in all, this is a bit more time than I would normally spend praising a toner, but this toner has been more than a toner to me. I use it as my intermediate hydrating step, morning and night, and have actually stopped using any other essences in addition to it. This is certainly a new go-to product for me, and I’m sure I will be repurchasing this sooner rather than later.

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been given no incentive, financial or otherwise, to review it here.

Friday Musings: Lip Treatments, Asian Skin Care, and Lady Friends

I was going to post about the new lip treatment I made this weekend, but I am not as enamored with as I thought I would be. I wanted something similar to the Bite Beauty Agave Lip mask because, while I love that, it’s rather expensive and it seems like I could make something similar for less money. Plus, I wanted to incorporate honey instead of agave into it. So I made a version of Egyptian Magic, but with some coconut oil instead of beeswax, so it had more of a soft texture than a salve/balm texture. Unfortunately, coconut oil always feels too light on my lips. I suppose the lanolin in the BB mask is necessary. I shall keep experimenting.

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So as you know, I’ve been shaking up my skin care routine. After going about a month without putting anything but water and a little rosehip oil on my face, I’ve determined that I have dehydrated, combination skin, and I get clogged pores in my oily areas. I found Caroline Hirons, who convinced me to use non-foaming cleansers, perform a two-step cleansing in the evening, and layer my skin care to create a “moisture sandwich.” She also taught me the benefits of using hyaluronic acid on breakout-prone skin.

I took this one further and joined Reddit this week. I at first started posting in the Skincare Addiction subreddit, but soon found that many of the posts that interested me were in the Asian Beauty section. My routine is already an Asian-style routine, with several layered steps. And this week’s research has convinced me to try some actual Asian products to replace certain steps of my routine.

Of course, no Westerner’s discussion of Asian skin care is complete without mentioning the snails. One of the higher-profile Asian skin care ingredients is snail slime, which is supposed to have benefits to repairing the skin. So I mentioned to Boyfriend that I might try snail skin care and his response was that I wasn’t “allowed” to use snails. This naturally made me determined to put snails on my face. I went to some well-reputed Amazon sellers and found two bundles of sheet masks (a product I use, but that I have currently run out of) that each included one snail secretion sheet mask, among others that are also intriguing. For good measure, I threw in some cushion makeup and an undereye concealer with salmon in it. They just arrived yesterday, so we shall see how they treat my face.

And then, I plan to replace items in my current routine with Asian options as I run out, if I’m not already in love with the product I’m using. Most intriguing is Asian sunblock. Asian women seem to have the same love of tanning that I do: that is to say, none at all. And so they actually wear sunscreen every day and reapply it. This means that it has to be light and cosmetically elegant enough to wear every day without disrupting makeup. So I’m intrigued to see if an Asian sunscreen is more appealing than the current product I use.

I’ve also taken a step back from “clean” personal care. I still use a lot of my old favorites, and my hair will always prefer more natural products without silicones and the sulfates necessary to wash them out. But I’ve come to realize that certain ingredients I was avoiding were based on outdated research. And so I’ve tentatively embraced more conventional, albeit unconventional, products.

Finally, as I continue to delve more into skin care and makeup, I’m thankful for my lady friends. This weekend, I’m having an outing with two friends of mine, so we can go to Sephora and Ulta, and maybe Target, and just generally shop around. I don’t do a lot of shopping, and part of that is that I find shopping alone to be awkward and shopping with Boyfriend to feel rushed. I’m excited to shop with a group of ladies who wants to be there! And it will be a far different experience than researching online to find a product that I was already looking for.

So that was my week and look forward to the weekend. Happy Friday, all!