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.

Pre-Wedding Beauty: How I Am Preparing for the Big Day

As readers of my blog probably know, I’m in the process of planning a wedding. It’s coming up, too! Of course, every bride I’ve ever seen has looked radiant and beautiful on her wedding day, but I definitely want to do everything I can to help the “wedding glow.” As an avid follower of skin care technologies, I’m constantly seeing people talk about pre-wedding beauty and ask what skin care products they should be using to get their skin ready for a wedding. So I thought I’d take a bit of time to talk a bit about my beauty treatments leading up to the wedding, and why I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen. Here are my top seven strategies for preparing for my wedding.

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1. I’m not using anything new less than one month before the wedding:

This is rule one, guys. Nothing new, less chance for an unexpected reaction that I’m frantically trying to deal with the week before the wedding. I have made minor exceptions for one-time-use products that I’ve checked ingredients very carefully, but I added my last long-term-use product one month before the big day.

2. I have a strong skin care foundation:

If you’re not like me and have over a year to prepare, start as soon as possible to get a good skin care foundation. I’ve written a bit about it here, but this post is also a great treatment of the hierarchy of what to worry about when you first start overhauling your skin care. Personally, I started my most recent skin care journey over a year ago, and one year is about when I started seeing a major difference in the resilience of my skin.

3. I focused on brightening and exfoliation:

While I’ve been using chemical exfoliants for a while, I had stopped using much in the way of physical exfoliation since I started down my science-based skin care road. But lately, I’ve found that my skin gets a little… off-feeling at times. So I started experimenting with physical exfoliation for times when I wanted my skin to be an extra-nice canvas for makeup. I also still use my azelaic acid three times a week. Plus, I’ve been loving Pixi Glow Tonic, a gentle glycolic acid toner that also has ginseng and horse chestnut extracts, which are both shown to improve skin brightness.

4. I kept up my healthy skin habits:

I drink lots of water and I use sunscreen every day, rain or shine. You know what’s a good way to avoid wonky tan lines? Sunscreen. A good way to avoid dehydrating your skin and looking dull on your wedding day? Sunscreen. Sunscreen is the best aging preventative and the best skin damage preventative, so, yeah, I use sunscreen every day. Plus, I’m using exfoliants, so it’s extra-necessary. And drinking plenty of water and trying to keep up a healthy lifestyle helps keep stress in check, which in turn comes full circle to prevent stress-induced breakouts.

5. I’m thinking outside the face box:

By this, I mean, remember that your body and your smile need love, too. I realized that my love of tea has left me with a decidedly British tooth shade, so I bought a tube of whitening, strengthening toothpaste to try to remove some of the stains. For my body, since my dress has a low back, I’m making sure to use moisturizing and exfoliating lotions there, too (as well as regular sunscreen!). I’ve also started working on taking better care of my nails, keeping them trimmed and filed, moisturizing them, and using a strengthening treatment to seal in moisture and prevent splitting.

6. I practiced my hair and makeup a couple months ahead of time:

I am doing my own hair and makeup because I’m having a low-key wedding, but even if you’re not, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you know what your face looks like with slightly heavier makeup. It’s good to go into an event knowing what you like yourself to look like. I’m actually doing a slightly heavier version of my head shot makeup look for the wedding, since I know what it looks like on me and I’ll still feel like myself. I also practiced my hair so I would know what to tell the woman making my custom birdcage veil.

7. I consulted a professional to guide my efforts:

Right after I got engaged, I realized I was still struggling with breakouts more than I wished I was, so I joined Curology. There, I learned about my personal skin care game-changers and had the benefit of some professional advice. While I haven’t felt it useful to continue my subscription, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

So there you have it, my seven strategies for preparing for a day when I will be gawked at and photographed more than probably any other day in my life (and certainly from closer up than when I’m on stage!). I hope some of my efforts will help inspire you to make your own plan of attack for big-day beauty.

Sponsored Beauty Review: Naruko Raw Job’s Tears Sheet Mask

NB: I was sent these masks by Naruko in return for writing a review, but all opinions are my own. My official statement about sponsorship offers is here.

A couple weeks ago, Rachel from Naruko offered to send me a few masks so that I could review them and see how I liked them. I’ve been intrigued by Naruko since seeing Jude’s posts on them, but I always got distracted by something shinier when I went to buy something from them. So I leapt at the opportunity. We had a little conversation about my skin type and concerns and one of the masks she suggested was the Raw Job’s Tears Supercritical CO2 Pore Minimizing and Brightening Mask. Say that one five times fast!

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Naruko is a Taiwanese company, founded by the preternaturally youthful and attractive Niuer, which focuses on creating products of superior effectiveness and quality control. They also happen to have products in a variety of price ranges, and using both scientifically-studied ingredients and more traditional botanical ingredients. I was particularly drawn to them because of their various floral lines. In fact, I’ve been eyeing products from their Rose line for ages because, well, I just love anything rose. They even make a Rose cushion blush that might make its way into my cart in future.

Now, I received the masks in record time and they just happened to come at time when I was plagued with spots from a hormonal swing, as well as just general stress and poor health habits during tech week for Pygmalion. So I jumped right in and used one of these masks on the Sunday after our second weekend of shows, which happened to be the weekend we had had four shows, a positive marathon compared to my usual community theatre experience. I had a large spot sprouting on the side of my chin. I figured at the very least, the coolness of a mask would calm it down.

Well, the first mask I tried didn’t really do much except generally soothe and hydrate my skin, but when I tried it again later in the week, when the spot had had a little time to run its course, I noticed an immediate reduction of the appearance of the remnants of this spot. So it’s a nice effect. I used the third mask they sent last night because I was PMSing pretty hard core and expecting some spots to appear, but they haven’t yet.

The essence is lightweight and not sticky and absorbs quickly after I’ve taken the mask off, but it stays pretty moist for 40 minutes or so. It smells lightly of apple juice to me, which is odd but not unpleasant. The fit isn’t bad — it basically fits my face with a little tenting around the bridge of the nose and gaps around the nose, but it’s stretchy enough to deal with the slightly small eye holes. All in all, a nice mask. I might repurchase this when I’ve run through my other stash of masks because it is nice for the occasional breakout. The pore care aspect of is something I usually rely on my Tosowoong Pure Propolis Mask for, but I find the essence in the Naruko Job’s Tears Mask to be lighter and possibly more in line with summer skin care.

This was a lovely introduction to Naruko, however, and I’m excited to try the other masks they’ve sent, as well as maybe branching out into the rest of their line.

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.

Shop Review: Beautibi

This is somewhat out of the ordinary for me, but I wanted to say a few words about a few recent purchases I made from the shop Beautibi. You see, usually when I make an order, I include a disclaimer saying that not only was I not compensated for the review, but it’s likely the company doesn’t even know about my blog or my review. But in this case, it’s possible Jen from Beautibi will see this review because we actually interact often enough that she’ll probably see this. Suffice to say that I haven’t been financially compensated and both of these orders were paid for by me.

Anyway, a little while ago, Jude at Fifty Shades of Snail posted about a giveaway of a Beautibi aNEW box. Now, I’m not big on beauty boxes, and I didn’t want to enter the giveaway, but looking at the box, it intrigued me. First of all, it included the Wishing U biocellulose masks, which are supposed to act like a hydrocolloid patch for your whole face, while also providing moisture and anti-aging benefits. Then, it included some travel-sized stuff from some brands that intrigued me. Including hair care. You guys, I love hair care! And the hair care is made with peat extract, which is just so appropriate for my upcoming Scottish honeymoon.

Finally, the thing that sold me was that, while the original box came with a full-sized BB, CC, or primer cream, Beautibi decided to offer the option of switching out color cosmetics for a peeling cream. I’ve never used a peeling gel or cream and I’ve been curious. So I decided to treat myself.

And then, seconds after submitting my order, I get an email: “Welcome to Beautibi, take 10% off your first order.” Oh. Well. Um. I just placed my first order, so how does this work?

So I went out on a limb and emailed them to ask if they could retroactively apply the discount. Well, not only did they respond and agree, they actually processed the refund so quickly, it came to me before the response that they were going to do that. No fuss. No muss. And since then, I’ve had some lovely interactions on Twitter and Instagram with them as well.

Well, after that lovely experience, I decided to splurge again and order during their St. Patrick’s Day sale. Beautibi has some brands that I don’t see everywhere, so I tried a brand of rubber masks that were new to me, as well as some garden-themed sheet masks, and an artisan perfume. It came packaged with the same lovely attention to detail, with speed that impressed even my Amazon-addicted self, and the same packet of whimsical confetti.

Beautibi is also nice because they carry a lot of Taiwanese brands, which are a bit less well-known than their Korean and Japanese sisters. I’ve been a fan of Taiwanese LoveMore masks for a while and I find the brands at Beautibi often walk a delicate line between being natural-leaning but without sacrificing science-led, effective ingredients. And the company often lists the pH of products, which is helpful for me.

I do believe Beautibi will have a longtime customer in me, next time I’m in need of a beauty pick-me-up.

Update: While this review was written with no ulterior motive, and the links in the main body of the review have not changed, I have since generated a Beautibi referral link. If you would like to support the blog, and get $5 off your first purchase, click here.

Beauty Review: The Gold Standard

I am going to start by saying that I know I am not doing anything ground-breaking by reviewing Stratia’s Liquid Gold. But I wanted to share my experiences with it, because I have tried a few ceramide products. But the bottom line is that I really like this product and I don’t see myself finding a replacement any time soon.

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Because I haven’t talked about my skincare routine for a while, here are the cliffs notes: I have combination dehydrated skin that I’m coming to realize is actually a bit sensitive. My skin hates soap, heavy plant butters, coconut oil, and cinnamon, and it loves low-pH cleansers, light hydration, high-linoleic oils, and ceramides. I started out with CeraVe PM as my ceramide fix, and later moved on to Rosette Ceramide Gel and finally CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream.

And then I decided to use Liquid Gold. At the time, the product mostly replaced three products in my routine: a niacinamide serum, a facial oil, and a ceramide cream. I’ve actually found myself reaching for my beloved Herbivore Phoenix oil less and less because Liquid Gold has the lovely nourishing plant oils, along with a healthy dose of niacinamide, hydration, and ceramides.

The cream itself is a lovely golden yellow color and has no discernible scent, other than the natural scent of the oils, which some people think smell fishy, but I just smell oil. It’s a creamy emulsion consistency, like a loose custard, which I find delightful, particularly together with the vivid color. Cosmetically, it is a joy to use. The sturdy, frosted-glass bottle looks lovely on my vanity, is distinctive enough that I can send Fiancé into the other room to get it for me with a 100% success rate, and the pump dispenses the perfect amount for the morning. In the evening, I use two pumps, although I sometimes add a thicker occlusive on top.

I use this product as either my last step in the morning before I put on sunscreen and makeup or as my last step in the evening, possibly before an occlusive or sleeping mask. When the air is not very dry, or when I’ve just used a sheet mask, I sometimes find it enough on its own. It applies smoothly, and leaves a satiny finish to my skin. There is a very slightly amount of stick, but just enough that my skin feels moist. It really does feel a bit like fresh mochi when I touch it!

Since I started using this product, the improvements to my skin have been subtle. Of course, from the first night I tried it, I woke up to glowing skin the next morning. But I’ve already made great strides by removing pore-clogging ingredients, switching to a low-pH cleanser, and adding layers of light hydration. That said, I still had some residual breakouts along my jawline, particularly around my time of the month. Well, last month, my monthly visitor was late, and because of that, and the fact that I hadn’t gotten even one spot convinced me that I was expecting. I mean, my skin was glowing. Of course, it was a false alarm, but the only thing that I had started recently enough to be the “culprit” would be this lovely healing emulsion.

If you are in the market for a light, hydrating and emollient, ceramide moisturizer, I suggest you take a look at Stratia Liquid Gold. It is worth at least a look, although it does contain some ingredients that give others pause. But I have found it to have made a great positive difference in my skin.

NB: I was not compensated in any way for this review or provided the product for review. I paid for this product with my own money.

Why I No Longer Seek out “Natural” Beauty Products

In November of 2015, about sixteen months ago, my morning routine was featured on the (apparently now-defunct) natural beauty blog “No More Dirty Looks.” At the time, I was using a heavily-DIY, all-natural routine, focusing on avoiding chemicals like parabens. Since then, I’ve obviously changed my tune and started using more man-made (and woman-made!) ingredients and products and stopped avoiding ingredients like parabens in favor of science-based ingredients. So I thought I’d use this post to talk a little bit about why I made the switch and why I no longer think it’s necessary to avoid the so-called “toxic” chemicals in our beauty products.

First, a little bit about my own personal story. I found natural/organic beauty through the organic and traditional foods movement. Several years ago, I decided to drastically overhaul how I ate in order to see if it would help my frequent migraine headaches. The good news is that it did! The bad news is that it meant making from scratch pretty much every scrap of food that went into my body. That’s a daunting task, and I did it with the help of food bloggers in the “real food” movement. And while I was busy putting only minimally-processed, organic food into my body, I started reading about how we also get exposed to “toxic chemicals” through the personal care products we use. Around the same time, I had a massive breakout of hives over my entire body for 36 hours. I tracked down the possible culprits and decided that the artificial fragrance had caused my reaction. So I started switching to an all-natural regimen of personal care.

At my crunchiest, I used homemade soap, apple cider vinegar, and organic oils to care for my face, body, and hair. I used crystal deodorant. I ate up articles by bloggers claiming to have found a scientific basis for avoiding parabens, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, and a whole host of other ingredients. When I couldn’t use something made myself, I found the simplest, least-preserved brand at the organic market that I could. I even washed my hair with mud for a while. And I kept this up for years.

Finally, I realized that highly-alkaline soaps were not doing my skin or hair any favors. I think the first step was admitting that washing my hair with soap left it paradoxically greasy and dry. My hairdresser would refuse to touch my hair until he’d washed it with salon shampoo. And I was breaking out. I went from being a teenager and early-20-something with enviable skin to a spotty 30-something.

In a fit of pique, I became so frustrated with how my skin reacted to everything that I just stopped using anything at all but plain water on my face. That was when I started noticing that my skin was actually dry. I started doing different research, looking up hydrating skin, and eventually found the Skincare Addiction and Asian Beauty subreddits. There, I learned that I had probably dehydrated my skin from years of using alkaline cleansing products and only oils to moisturize. And a light bulb went on.

But in order to fully break away from my crunchy leanings, I had to convince myself that these chemicals I’d been avoiding for years were actually safe. Once I finally did, I felt embarrassed because the preponderance of scientific evidence is in favor of the safety of approved cosmetics ingredients, and I have a scientific background myself. Refusing to trust these researchers is akin to refusing to trust the science that claims vaccines are safe and necessary or that human-driven climate change is a major factor in our environment. If I trusted the science in one place, I needed to learn to trust the science in this place.

Of course, there are bloggers with science backgrounds doing the good work of trying to counter the scare-mongering people who perpetuate this fear of “chemicals.” And that really helped. But I also did my own looking around. And even now, when I find myself falling into old habits of worrying about a skin care ingredient, I do a search and try to limit myself to scientific publications. And since I know a little bit about scientific publication, I try to look up the journals these things are published in, to ensure I’m getting good sources.

But that’s not to say I’ve completely abandoned everything I gained from being an organic beauty aficionado. I still use natural oils on my face. I still DIY my own products, when I can’t find a commercial product that I like. And I still am wary of fragrance in skin care. I’m still aware of my ingredients, but I know that I could have a problem from any ingredient, not just the ones with unfamiliar chemical names.

And that’s the real crux of why I no longer consider myself a natural skin care person. I’ve found some natural ingredients that cause me much worse problems than any scary-sounding chemical ever has. As an example, I’m going to go back to that story about breaking out in hives. I noticed that the initial reaction happened in the exact pattern that I use when putting soap on my body. I looked at the bar of soap I was using and, sure enough, “fragrance” was one of the ingredients. Now, I’m friends with the lady who makes the soap, so I shot her a quick email. She verified that, yes, she used artificial sandalwood fragrance because of cost and environmental concerns with sandalwood oil. Well, I thought to myself, that must be the problem!

There was a jasmine perfume she sold that I loved, so when I was done “detoxing,” I added that back in first, to make sure it didn’t cause a problem. And it didn’t. Oh well, I thought, the jasmine fragrance oil and the sandalwood fragrance oil must have different constituents. But then, I started making my own soaps and she shared her fragrance supplier’s website with me. Well, knowing that the sandalwood fragrance made me react and the jasmine didn’t, I figured I could go to the data sheets for each fragrance and look at what different components they had.

And they had exactly the same fragrant compounds in them. From a chemical standpoint, there wasn’t a difference. So if I had reacted to one, why didn’t I react to another?

Then, I went back to the soap ingredient list and looked again. One of the essential oils was cinnamon essential oil. Now, cinnamon is intensely irritating and has to be used carefully. I had actually had a less-severe skin reaction to a product with cinnamon in it after my hives situation. So after all that, after years of being chemically-avoidant, it was probably a natural essential oil that had caused my reaction.

So the lesson here is that anything can cause a reaction, be it natural or synthesized. Be aware of your personal care products, but know that approved chemicals became approved through a lengthy research process, and distrusting that research may not leave you with the best products to work with.

The Weekend Deep Cleanse

Lately, my weekend evenings have been uneventful and quiet, which gives me more time to really treat my skin. I do always try to reserve Sunday evenings for home time, so I can make some healthy food and do my weekly skincare deep cleanse. This weekend, I managed to fall asleep without doing my routine on Saturday night (naughty, I know, but at least I wasn’t wearing makeup!), so I decided to do my deep cleanse in the morning to make up for the negligence the night before.

The weekend deep cleanse starts the same way that the regular evening cleanse starts: I go in with grease. That is to say, I start with an oil or balm cleanser. Lately, I’ve been too lazy to put together a new batch of my homemade cleansing balm, so I’m using up a bottle of Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil in the meantime. It’s grapeseed-based and unfancy and works for my purposes.

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Here’s where I shake things up. After thoroughly emulsifying and rinsing my cleansing oil off with warm water, I pat dry and apply a clay mask. I like to apply a clay mask between cleansing steps for two reasons: 1.) I can use my second cleanser to remove bits of mask, so I don’t need to scrub everything off with a washcloth and aggravate my skin, and 2.) clay is often high pH and I like to use my low-pH second cleanser to help balance my skin out a bit so I don’t get tight skin. So I smear on a relatively generous layer of Cattier Green Clay Mask.

I love this clay. I’ve used a lot of clays, from mix-it-yourself powders to Korean clay mousse in a can, and Cattier is hands-down my favorite. It might be the only clay mask I’ve actually repurchased in the last several years. It’s just green clay mixed with water and humectant solvents, with some preservatives thrown in to keep it from getting nasty. It’s less messy than mixing my own, and less irritating and drying than any other clay mask I’ve used. I daub myself with green mud and then go downstairs to terrify Fiancé and TweedCat (and also watch a YouTube video maybe) for ten minutes. I rinse it off after ten minutes so that the mask doesn’t completely dry. This allows the clay to suck out impurities, but it doesn’t irritate my skin, and I find that I can rinse the mask completely by splashing with warm water and I don’t have to resort to the use of a cloth.

After the clay, I follow up with my second cleanser (currently Glossier’s Milky Jelly), and then pat dry. But wait, the deep cleanse is not over yet. I like to follow up with a toner, essence, and sheet mask whenever I do a clay mask because clay can be drying and I wouldn’t want to dehydrate my already princess-diva skin. So I slapped on a LoveMore Pearl Barley and Milk mask and relaxed for twenty minutes this weekend. If I have more time, I might luxuriate with an Evercos mask. If I’m going to an audition or party later on, I might opt for a LoveMore Snow Lotus mask. And if my skin is being a pissy little baby, I might go for Tosowoong Pure Propolis. Whichever I choose, hydration is the first order of business, which is the primary feature of any sheet mask, in my opinion.

Cleansed and essence-d to within an inch of my skin’s life, I finish off with a squirt of a light emulsion for the daytime (currently Stratia Liquid Gold, review forthcoming) or a cream at night. So far, I haven’t seen too many repercussions of my Saturday neglect, so I think it’s working.

NB: All products mentioned were bought by me and paid for by me with no incentive to review them.