Treating Myself: A Brightening and Hydrating Facial from Silver Mirror Facial Bar

NB: I was given a 20% discount on this service when I offered to review it. All opinions are my own.

When I was in my last few months of pregnancy, walking from the gym to work in the mornings, I noticed a new facial bar along the way. It opened recently, and I finally remembered to jot down the name of it when I was walking from my favorite pastry shop, and emailed them for information. Silver Mirror Facial Bar was originally opened in New York City by co-owners Cindy Kim and Matt Maroone with the mission of making regular facials more available to US women. Kim was also a co-founder of Korean Beauty retailer Peach and Lily and was inspired by the skin clinic culture in Korea.

The bar offers just facials, with 30-minute and 50-minute offerings, as well as extras and add-ons. I received a 50-minute Brightening/Dryness Facial, in part because of some rough dryness I’d had around my jawline, and just a general desire to look a little more awake after months of an uncertain sleep schedule. Walking into the facial bar reminds me a bit of a mix between a fancy salon and a minimalist doctor’s office, with a white reception desk, a minimalist shelf displaying the products they sell, and a small waiting area. I checked in on an iPad and the receptionist offered me a drink (it was one of the hottest days this year), which I accepted gladly. I spent just long enough in the waiting area to finish my cup of watermelon water before my aesthetician Olga met me and showed me back to the treatment area.

True to their minimalist, clinical aesthetic, the treatment area is just one large room with curtains to separate different clients’ beds during facials, somewhat like a chic emergency room. There was a bin for my purse, a charger for my devices, a mirror, and a bed. I did not have to remove anything (although I did remove my shoes), but simply lay on the bed in my clothes. Olga covered my legs and feet with a blanket, my neckline with a towel, and wrapped my hair out of the way, and then began.

The facial began with the typical steam and cleansing. She did a double-cleanse using a brightening facial cleanser with vitamin C and lactic acid. This was followed with an enzyme mask, a delicious-smelling lavender toner, and then extractions. After extractions, she used some high frequency to zap bacteria. I’d had this done before years ago, but somehow it was less zappy than I remembered.

Up until this point, the facial was like virtually every other facial I’d had and I wondered if I would be disappointed. Then, she brought out the derma roller.

Derma rolling uses a wheel of tiny needles to make micro punctures in the skin to increase product absorption and improve collagen production. It feels a bit like someone is rolling a miniature version of those “bed of nails” mats all over your face. Not painful, but not what I’m into. She applied a hydrating serum over most of my face, skipping over the more sensitive areas, and then applied a hydrating sheet mask under a warm towel for a few minutes to hydrate my skin deeply.

After that, she used the bar’s signature vitamin-and-oxygen mist, which felt incredibly soothing after my derma rolling experience, and then set me up with eye protection so I could rest under LED to help with anti-aging and brightening (red light). An application of SPF finished off the facial. I looked in the mirror and found myself pink-cheeked and fresh looking, and then went back to the office. The whole experience was exactly 50 minutes, though it packed more in than many 1-hour facials I’ve had in the past.

Of course, as with any facial at a salon that sells product, there was a bit of a sales pitch at the end. Olga brought a package of the lavender toner, the delicious scent of which I’d commented on during the facial, and offered it, though without any pressure. When I said “not today,” the subject was dropped.

Over the course of the day, I noticed that my skin felt the ambient heat a little more, and I had a bit of sensitivity on my walk home. But when I woke up the next morning and washed my face, I was amazed at how smooth my skin looked. While I have pretty good skin to begin with, the facial brought it to the next level. And my normal forehead wrinkle has remained much softer in appearance. I’m rather impressed the results of this facial, and I’ve already made an appointment to return for a 30-minute facial entirely on my own dime so that I can see if the shorter facial is similarly impressive. Perhaps I will become one of those women who gets a monthly facial.

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.

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: invi+apotheke Peat Hair and Body Travel Kit

I thought I’d kick off the beginning of my Scottish Honeymoon Recap by reviewing a set of products that I specifically saved to take with me. I received the invi+apotheke Hair and Body Travel Kit from Beautibi as part of the aNEW box a few months ago, and the peat-infused products seemed like a perfect kit to bring with me to the land of peat and whisky.

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The brand invi+apotheke is a 100% natural hair and body care brand from Korea that uses peat extracts in their products because of its supposed antioxidant activity from plant sterols in the peat matter. I know that peat makes my garden happy and my whisky delicious, so I was intrigued. The fact that the products are sulfate-free was icing on the cake, as I try to avoid sulfates due to personal sensitivities. Plus, all the products are pH-balanced to be between pH 4.5-5.5, which is ideal for skin and scalp. Personally, I find my body and scalp just as finicky as my face when it comes to pH.

So, armed with these adorable bottles of black and grey goo, I made my way to Scotland to get a picture of peat in its natural habitat. Of course, I didn’t manage to hike an actual peat bog, but I did get a nice glamour shot at Inverness Castle. Duly recorded, I figured I could crack them open.

These products do not mess around with peat extract. The hair and body cleansers are both deep black in color, and the hair treatment is a satisfyingly dingy grey color that suggests that peat is a large part of the formula. They also have an earthy, herbal smell, although, as one Redditor noted to their dismay, they do not smell of peaty whisky. Nevertheless, I found them quite pleasant, if possibly a bit of a polarizing scent (Mr. Tweed was not so convinced, but still used them).

The cleansers are quite gentle and all three products are pretty thin in texture, making for an interesting first day when I dumped out a handful of hair cleanser to wash my hair. They need to be shaken before use, but other than that I find they lather as well as any of my other sulfate-free shampoos, and provide gentle cleansing. The treatment felt a bit lightweight, but I didn’t have any trouble with hair dryness, so it did the trick, although it might not have served me pre-haircut.

While I would probably be tempted to repurchase full sizes of the products, they are tricky to find. Beautibi doesn’t carry them. I will also note that, while I like a bit of gentle cleansing for my hair, I did find my hair started to feel a bit gunky after nine days in Scotland with nothing else stronger. I would probably want to use a weekly clarifying shampoo and use these the rest of the time. But it was nice for days when we came home sweaty and I wanted to wash my hair on consecutive days.

All in all, I enjoyed these products. I wish they were a bit easier to find in full sizes, though.

NB: I purchased these products with my own money and have not been given any incentive to review them. There are no affiliate links in this review, but you can access my affiliate links here.

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.