Vitamin B-3! Well specifically we’re talking about Niacinamide, like a lot of ‘actives’ in skincare are a form of a Vitamin (Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, Vitamin C we all know and love). Vitamin B3 is found present in all cells, like we’re literally made up of this stuff. It helps specifically with the cell reproduction and has incredible anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it effective for acne and can even show signs of improvement in cases of rosacea, keratosis pilaris, and psoriasis. But Niacinamide doesn’t quit with just helping 4 common skin conditions it’s also a great anti-ager as well as hydrator. With the increased skin cell turnover helping reveal brighter, healthier skin Niacinamide also helps stimulate production of ceramides, a lipid our skin produces to protect against aggressors and maintain moisture. So this is why it’s been a major skin care ingredient in Asian beauty for so long. It’s results can be great and it’s suitable for sensitive skin so it’s kinda a no brainer ingredient.
Some bomb products I personally love that contain effective amounts of Niacinamide:
Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Pack
This lil’ fella smells very very similar to LUSH’s Twilight Bath Bomb if you’ve ever had a chance to smell it. It’s key ingredients are Niacinamide and White Mulberry to deliver a bright glowy complexion in the mornin’. It’s also packed with Trehalose, Hyaluronic and Glycerin; all three powerful humectants to keep your skin pulling in humidity for serious hydration.
(as you can see, I need to repurchase soon)
CosRx Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence
While Galactomyces may be the power player in this product the assistance of Niacinamide really pushes this product into Holy Grail status. Read my full review of this here!
J.One Hana Cream
This cream does it all and it was designed to! J.One is founded by famous Korean actress Jiwon Ha is a capsulated cream packed with macademia nut oil, ceramides, and other powerful moisturizers and hydrators while it works to firm, lift, (Peptides) brighten & smooth (Niacinamide, Salicylic acid) and protect (Fullerene, Centella, B5)
I gotta say there’s a couple questions I get asked WAY more than a persons regular specific concern which is “How do I shrink my pores?!” People’s faces usually start to show disinterest as soon as I tell the basically “You can’t!” Now this isn’t 100% true every time and there’s different philosophies on how pores operate.
The ‘safe’ philosophy is to compare them to a trash bag. They start one size and they can hold xx amount of content. The pore can slightly stretch and snap back but can easily be stretched passed it’s original size and basically stay that size. This is why we see pores where we’ve picked get funky shapes often times looking like an oval or line. I have a few of these battle scars from when I was a teenager not having a drop of self restraint from picking at my sebaceous filaments. Sebaceous what? Sebaceous filaments are in my opinion one of the most annoying things but they’re so great. Basically these are like candle wicks that bring oil from inside the pore to the skin’s surface. However sometimes these ‘wicks’ need to be ‘trimmed’ yeah it’s a gross analogy but you’re picturing it correctly. They oxidize from their exposure to air and turn black, the same way a blackhead turns black, but these suckers are a skin function, not a temporary obstruction. So if you feel like you have recurring blackheads in the same spot they most likely are these guys instead. Blackheads generally are raised and much larger than the pore.
While detoxing we all know helps enlarged pores but there’s something that is actually MORE important! We need to make sure our skins properly hydrated (think water not oil) otherwise how can you expect your pores to be perky tight and firm?? Like a butt that hasn’t seen squats in a while our pores aren’t quite themselves when they’re dry. Most people see dramatic improvement with increased hydration over time.
So what do I recommend for congestion, sebaceous filaments, enlarged pores and everything in between? These are some of my favorites and some quick bits about them.
Salicylic Acid (and it’s various forms) – exfoliates also the inside of the pore (something manual exfoliation and AHAs do not do) think: dran-o for your skin.
Bentonite – Detox without the dryness. Bentonite cannot physically absorb water but it can absorb oil and impurities that come along with it.
Sulfur – Detox the sh*t out of your skin, can be considered an active ingredient. Can be drying. But effect for a quick purge. I like it for spot treatments the most.
Charcoal – Moderate detox; this is in toooooooooons of products, including many you’re going to read about. Not all that drying however can be.
Hyaluronic Acid – A humectant that our skin has present naturally that pulls in humidity into our skin.
Snail Secretion – Multi-function ingredient that actually contains hyaluronic acid, as well was copper peptides to help repair skin and a slew of other compounds.
(Scroll down to find out more and what products have these ingredients!)
CosRx Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser – Make sure to use a toner with this one! More stripping pH of 9. But a deeply cleansing ‘micro foam’ penetrates Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree deep to help liquify sebum and lead you to clear skin. I love these photos of explanation from the brand, the brand is phenomenal inside and out.
Caolion Pore Blackhead O2 Sparkling Soap – I like spot cleansing my nose every morning with this charcoal and sebum balancing bar soap. Leaves the skin squeaky clean but not totally stripped, if you’re into that typa thang.
Foreo Luna Sonic Cleansing Brush – While our cleansers can do a lot how we put them to work can be a total game changer. I prefer the Foreo over the Clarisonic for many reasons. But that doesn’t mean I’d tell you to toss the Clarisonic, I would just stick to the radiance and cashmere brush heads. (I’ll do a post one day as to why)
Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel – IT SMELLS LIKE SPRITE. Peeling gels are great gentle exfoliators, something that can be used more frequently than a scrub or intensive acid peel. I personally use this guy on my nose everyday and my forehead almost every day. These types of exfoliators stick on to dead skin cells and balls them up off your face. Gentle and effective, just how I like it. That’s him down there!
Perricone PRE:EMPT Exfoliating Pore Refiner – If you don’t dig the idea of rolling your dead skin up but want an everyday exfoliator still I highly recommend this bad boy. Hailing from Perricone, a brand extremely concerned about inflammation and irritation. The second ingredient is Betaine Salicylate a gentle form of Salicylic acid that’s just as effective. I have a full review of this product planned!
(not pictured) PTR Pumpkin Enzyme Mask -TRIPLE ACTION EXFOLIATOR BURN THAT SH*T OFF Mask should actually be its name. But it’s still on this list because it works and it works well. Not for everyone but it uses aluminum oxide to give you a nice microdermabrasion scrub (fine granules to buff, great for texture), AHAs to lift and Enzymes to eat it away those dead skin cells. While I like this more for texture; it’s a phenomenal prep step into clay masks and really any exfoliator is but, I like this one for its thoroughness.
PTR Irish Moor Mud Purifying Mask – Purifying but not stripping. But WARNING do this mask in the shower it is crazy thick and it’s very invigorating w/ your pores open. Using charcoal and peat (irish moor mud just the not frilly ~magical~ name for it.) Peat is basically mud that’s had a lot of decay in it for a lot of years so it’s very very nutrient rich. To top it off it has some hijiki seaweed to add some nourishment. You never feel stripped however sometimes sensitive if you leave it on for awhile. Absolutely my favorite mud mask, thickness and all.
Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding – I consider this the Irish Moor Mud lite. Similar effect comes from both white and black charcoals. While the ‘white charcoal’ side offers some more nourishing ingredients and helps with pore refinement. It has no real tingle or warmth.
Kate Somerville EradiKate Oxygenating Mask – For those looking for a serious detox to bring them a serious glow without the stripping effects. This is your guy. Oxygenating to help bring flush tone and a glow while containing just a smidge of sulfur to really flush your pores. Can leave your skin a little stinky if you don’t get it all off (or out of your hairline which is very hard to do with this bugger)
Admittedly, I haven’t tried very many pore serums. I’ve always been skeptical and seen lack of results but this was an exception:
Skinmiso Pore Corset Serum – This guy has been impressing me lately but it’s still too soon to tell for sure. I’m about 3 weeks in but I’ve definitely noticed my nose pores looking less and less noticeable. Now this is what makes me start to believe the second pore philosophy of Pores are like rubber bands they and stretch and snap back to the size they were but you can’t make them smaller. I know a lot of my enlarged pores are from sun damage and acne damage, so in theory that means my pores should be able to tighten up maybe not all the way back to normal but some since it’s not all genetics. Wishtrend has a lot of pictures and info on the product, it is a more ‘secretive’ product in the ingredient area. It does mention something about 20 minutes of pore tightening therapy which sounds awesome and probably has something to do with the cooling effect it imparts.
Sunday Riley Tidal Enzyme Cream – ugh, love you bae. I’m on my second jar of this and I don’t use it consistently. This lightweight gel cream has two forms of hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrated and stay that way all day long. To top it off there are enzymes like papain to smooth and brighten and brightening actives like the safer hydroquinone-derivative alpha-arbutin. A lot of makeup artists I know and work with swear by this for prep. But nonetheless a great hydrator to keep those pores lookin fuh-reshhhhh
Okay this is KEY. This product has been my most effective treatment I’ve used to date. Also what’s neat about it is, it’s also one of the cheapest products I’ve ever purchased coming in just under $19 USD.
However the first ingredient is 95% of the product (it’s not a typo and it’s not water!) And it’s the saaaaame prized ingredient SK-II has dubbed ‘Pitera’. It’s known as Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate and it is a yeast ferment generally occurring in the sake making process. But instead of paying $205 USD for it from SK-II at 90% with 10% preservative why not try it for $19 at a 5% higher concentration and the added brightening effect and antioxidant boost of Niacinamide? This is the Cosrx Galactomyces Whitening Power Essence (it used to be called White Power Essence before LMAO oops)
Here’s the OVERWHELMINGLY LONG AND SCARY INGREDIENT LIST:
Yeah dude, that’s it. These are also EXTREMELY safe and ‘clean’ ingredients as well. Cosrx is a near perfect brand and that is a title I thought would virtually never exist. But if we look at the sub ingredients they’re things we’ve seeing carry great benefit before like Glycerin and Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid) are humectants to help absorption and hydration. Adenosine and Allantoin are conditioning as well.
The reason people love first treatment essences (what’s that? read my blog post about the different types here) formulated with Galactomyces is the increased skin cell turnover. We see all around improvement not just individualized results for just one concern like wrinkles or dark spots. We are essentially dealing with all types of damage our skin deals with from existing damage to preemptive protection! This ferment is naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and NMF (natural moisture factors) all that work synergistically to improve skin as a whole.
A study was done by SK-II (read about it here) on 100 women over 10 years with ‘Pitera’ aka THE SAME INGREDIENT! and all the women showed improvement in their skin in one way or another and increased hydration across the board.
This essence is a little different than your regular FTE because of it’s consistency. Most, including SK-IIs are very watery, however this is just slightly more viscous but I prefer this as it helps application and speed of absorption. The results are incredible, especially paired with a powerful serum (remember increased cell turnover means more room for increased results!) and seriously would recommend it to everyone and anyone. Especially for it’s price point E V E R Y O N E can benefit from this essence.
From top to bottom we have Kenzoki, MISSHA, and BECCA.
Check them out moving in the light here!:
Lets start with the Kenzoki cream. As we can see it has a lot less visible sheen than the BB Boomer or Backlight Primer. This is partially due to it having to deliver a lot more than just some sheen and adhesion for makeup application like the other two (we’ll see they both do a lot more of course) But this moisturizer is loaded with white lotus flower to help sooth and reduce irritation and redness while pink peony flower will help with brightening and evening skin tone out naturally!
Next we have the MISSHA BB Boomer. If I had to pick a favorite, I think I’d pick this one. First off, it has a natural spf with it’s high Titanium Dioxide amount. While MISSHA doesn’t disclose this so it could also mean it’s SPF is >15. You can see it’s really intense pink pearl. This is going to be more suited for someone with a fairer complexion. Also keeping in mind this is a korean product which means it can possibly limit who can and cannot use this product due to it’s color. This ‘BB Cream Primer’ as it’s marketed as also has some great brightening ingredients like Allantoin!
Lastly, and definitely not least is BECCA’s Backlight Primer. White the other two were a little more heavy on the pink tones to the skin. Becca claims there are 3 pigments being used to help neutralize more undertones than just one! 1 point BECCA for being a little bit more universal (funny because I cannot match even slightly to any of their foundations) However this product has more of a warm undertone regardless. Making it more suitable than MISSHA’s primer for some. However I can wear this primer without looking “too warm” or anything like that. This product doesn’t have the same slew of benefits Kenzoki and MISSHA has but contains licorice root which is great to have in a primer to help prevent any potential breakouts or redness in the skin.
I often get asked by friend and clients, so what EXACTLY do you do every morning and every night? And I can tell you my routine isn’t as strenuous as some. I had a fantastic coworker from China who told me she masked every. single. night. If I only had that time.. But here are my steps. (give or take a couple depending on how much time I have) The products for them are changing out here and there so I’ll just give example products I may use for that particular step. So here are my AM routine steps:
Cleanser: while we’re sleeping our body goes into a ‘maintenance’ mode replenishing cells throughout the body. We’ll want to shed any of those excess off that we accumulated overnight WITH . — JuJu Bar by Drunk Elephant ($28) would be a great fit here, it’s exfoliating, yet pH balanced so we aren’t overstripping our skin in the morning.
Essence: since we didn’t use a deep cleaning cleanser we won’t need to rebalance our pH with toner. This is going to start the hydration processes for our skin. Think of a sponge, a dry sponge cannot absorb liquid very well. But if that sponge is just a little damp it can pick it right up. Think of your skin like that sponge! —SK-II Facial Treatment Essence ($99-$205) is the holy grail essence. Increasing skin cell turnover and improving texture and increasing hydration.
Serum: I prefer to use some sort of serum (part of our treatment steps) that’ll help with firming or radiance of the skin in the morning. Mainly because these generally have some sort of instant gratification that you’ll get to show off during the day as well as those important long term results. — Fresh Black Tea Firming Serum ($75) or SK-II Cellumination Aurabright ($160-$235) are great for those long term and instant results. Fresh’s Black Tea serum has a string of peptides that work synergistically to lift and firm the face for a ‘corset like effect’ was the key phrase from a Fresh Representative and I couldn’t agree more with it. SK-II’s Aurabright, while pricey has Niacinamide a super powerful ingredient that helps even skin tone out as well as actual light optics in colors red, green, and blue to give the appearance of your skin emitting an ‘aura’.
Moisturizer: I use a lightweight cream or gel base moisturizer in the morning so I don’t have any complexion products I use sliding off my face. — Erborian Creme Frappee ($43) is the perfect texture to me. Absorbs well, it’s cooling, acts like a makeup base, but still provides hydration and amino acids from bamboo.
Protect: Oh something I usually get from my color products… MISSHA’s Magic Cushion($19) or Perfect Cover($22) If I ever just was to wear SPF I would wear a nice chemical fluid. While I haven’t dived into the supposedly amazing South Korean brand sunscreens other than in color. I do love Shiseido’s Urban Environment Fluid($32) absorbs well, doesn’t leave the mineral cast, but is a little brightening
So these aren’t things found in most routines. In fact, most American/European brands do not sell them! It’s something much more popular in Asian Beauty. Now, what is an Ampoule? An Ampoule is part of your ‘treatment’ steps. The consistency is usually very thick. Think of it as a super powered serum, containing more actives than a serum. MIZON, a fantastic South Korean brand surprisingly sold in Urban Outfitters, and the “net-a-porter” of Asian Beauty, Peach & Lily; has a popular Ampoule ‘Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule’. This product contains 80% snail secretion filtrate! It’s exactly what you think it is. But remember the key word filtrate as this product doesn’t have a smell or color. But why would we want to put snail secretion on our faces anyways, right? Snails are magic little creatures, they’ve been around they say for over 500 million years and are able to regenerate with ease!
Lets look into what snail secretion carries that’s beneficial to the skin:
Hyaluronic Acid – this is something we produce naturally! We use it to maintain a ‘water reservoir’ in our skin. It gives our skin that “plump” feeling we all love.
Proteoglycans – Also helps hold moisture in the skin
Copper Peptides – A favorite ingredient of mine! These guys actually help repair skin’s structure. In one way, it has been noted it can break down cross-linked collagen (scarring tissue)
Antimicrobial properties – All my acneic friends rejoice as this product will help with that stubborn congestion and/or bacterial breakouts.
I’ve noticed some significant improvements in my skin in a very short amount of time with this ampoule. My skin’s hydration has gone through the roof! I was using Fresh’s Black Tea Overnight Firming Mask about every other night and I’d wake up in the morning feeling normal instead of dry. After a couple nights with this Ampoule I noticed I had to blot my nose about mid-afternoon at work. Something I haven’t done since summer! The product absorbs crazy fast. leaving it ready for the next step of your routine whether it be the beginning of your treatment steps or the last step before moisturizer.
So with all that goodness how could I not resist? It’s price from American retailers like UO is $38.00 but you can easily find this product for under $15.00. I found mine on Amazon for $12.99, it came sealed and all MIZON products should come with an expiration date.