CUROLOGY Experience: Part 1 Congestion Cleanup

I have had a few people ask me how I like Curology and before I made up my mind I REALLY wanted to make sure I gave it the ol college try by giving it over a month.

Why I started Curology

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It’s always a weird feeling for me speaking to a dermatologist, or in this case a NP-C (they also have MDs and PA-Cs) about my own skin. It’s one thing for me to talk about products, ingredients and effects. I do it to put the roof over my head. It’s a whole different story when we are talking about the quality of my skin. Ya boy ain’t leadin’ by example 100% of the time let me just say that. But I had years and years of never ever cleansing, awful sun damage, pretty bad acne, and absolutely no guidance on the matter. So there was a lot of ground to make up. I got the majority of the damage cleared up over a year and a half. I made incredible improvements but after that my progress essentially plateaued.

Congestion was still present on my forehead, my major problem area (”scene kid” bangs in high school were like the worst idea of my life), my sebaceous filaments on my nose have always resurfaced quickly after treatment. Lastly, I am showing signs of accelerated aging from everything above, personal life/prolonged stress and malnourishment so I really actually since my move I’ve been working on slowly slower than I needed improving my well being completely. Everything from sleeping more, to very recently improving my nutrition. But after so long of battling the very last of my skin concerns I just wanted to nip them in the butt completely and I concluded it was time for the next step, prescription treatment. Since I have used and experienced pretty much every type of OTC treatment for my concern.

Getting Started/Consultation

I signed up for curology with some random free month code I found online. But they have changed their model now to offer a free trial, you just cover shipping. After that it is $19.95/month and that covers “custom medication, formula tweaks, and free messaging with your medical provider”. I don’t think it’s all too bad if you think about the fact the treatment is supposed to last 3 months. You’re paying more than that $60 for most mainstream OTC retinols, treatments, etc.

After signing up you’ll upload photos of your areas of concern and do a questionnaire about your skin. Then in a day or so your assigned practitioner will message you about the game plan (whether you need medication or not, however they say that most people do not need it) about your treatment and then also some do’s and dont’s.

The process was crazy easy and so easy my grandma could do it. I signed up over the weekend and got a notification that my treatment was being processed and I had a message from my practitioner. I had a few initial questions and they were all answered in a pretty timely matter. I also like that she recommended me to look up the products I currently use on CosDNA to see if there were any potential culprits contributing to my concerns. Of course I do this like everyday for fun and did it with every products I’m using before I let it touch my face, but you know that’s ooooKay.  I was recommended to steer away from anything that rated over a 1-2/5 for irritation and acne trigger. The only thing that I recommend outside of this is if you’re concerned of a high safety rating please research the ingredient. Sometimes they’re rated too high or are only unsafe when ingested, etc.

I was prescribed:

– azelaic acid 8% (antibacterial; reduces redness, hyperpigmentation, and blocked pores)
– clindamycin 1% (antibacterial and anti-inflammatory)
– zinc pyrithione 0.25% (antimicrobial with dual action against bacteria and fungus)

While my concerns are mainly centered around acne I wasn’t surprised. But I was disappointed there were no ingredients that had substantial anti-aging and retexturizing properties. I didn’t ask change anything because I wanted to put my trust in the practitioner.

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Ingredients offered

On the Face

I was so excited when my package came. I felt like it was the last step of the intensive part of my skin journey. It may be, but it hasn’t started perfectly. I did as suggested and cut my routine down dramatically. After a couple of nights of seeing how my skin reacted to it I started slowly adding more of my routine back.

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My progress started slower than I anticipated. Especially coming off of my retinol I figured my cell turnover speed would be in my favor and I could move on. But that wasn’t really the case. For the first couple of weeks I didn’t notice much, I had two minor cystic breakouts on my forehead but that was really about it. No improvement but not a whole lot of issue.

About a week after I started noticing the positives and still not noticing a whole lot of bad. At this point I was back to double cleansing and using a full routine safely around actives. (using them before anything else and waiting 20+ minutes before following with the rest of my routine.) My foreheads congestion was almost completely gone, my sebaceous filaments on my nose do not oxidize as quickly, nor do I really notice them terribly anymore.

Now

After a few more weeks of gradually seeing these improvements I get a second wave of purging. This time in weird areas, places that I haven’t had congestion or a breakout for awhile. My lower left side of my chin and a few areas on my cheeks I had new breakouts forming. Then the one on my chin turned for the worse. I’ve had it for a little over a week now. I’m pretty tired of the breakouts, especially the cystic ones. I understand why they happen but if I was my own client and I explained everything going on I would most likely think it’s time to change the treatment up. I feel as if I have gained as much as I can from the anti-acne trio but it may be time to cut down the amount of anti-acne and increase the anti-aging.

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Left before, Right after

Taken after cleansing

(Yeah these weren’t the best before and afters and I definitely just cropped the ones I sent in LOL)

I have messaged my provider and uploaded updated before and after photos of my face. I am currently waiting for a response. We’ll see where she takes me next. But overall I have been enjoying my curology experience. I’ve been given an effective treatment for my concerns however I think it’s time to move on out of the purging phase. We’ll see what she says and I’ll update this ending!

UPDATE 12/6/16:

I got a response from my provider and they want me to continue this treatment (understandably, because I would say the same thing if it were my client because it hasn’t been a whole 3 month treatment period) and I really just wanna say “Guys, I got it! My congestions good 2 go. Keep 2/3 ingredients in there if you wanna be safe but PLS IT’S TIME” But I’m respecting it. However, I start itchin’ at the thought of finding a tretinoin otc from overseas and cancel… But we shall continue….

Winter Dryness

Since moving to Seattle from California my skin has been non stop dry. I can’t really tell where my skin has done better yet? It’s pretty terrible everyplace. One thing I can tell you about my skin since moving to Seattle is, it’s DRY in the cold weather.

So far I’ve kept a nice dew to my skin through the cold so far, but it hasn’t been easy! These are just a few of my tips for fighting the cold.

Sheet mask more

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Sheet masks offer a variety of skincare benefits, but at the end of the day they usually have two or three humectants in them like Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Glycerin. Depending on the mask then you can also find even more moisturizing or hydrating ingredients. Three of my favorites:

Medi-Heal E.G.T TIMETOX Ampoule Mask is a superpowered repairing mask. Containing ingredients that can whip skin out of both dryness and dehydration. It contains Astaxanthin(super-antioxidant), Acetyl Hexapeptide-8(Peptide that reduces appearance of wrinkles), RH-Oilgopeptide-1(Epidermic Growth Factor)

The Face Shop The Solution Nourishing Face Mask is the soothing propolis flavor is a great option if you want some well rounded nutrition. What is propolis you may ask? It’s this honey like substance bees collect that they use as a disinfectant, and a glue! It’s antioxidant rich and can be used topically as a antiviral and antimicrobial. Super great for those who are acne prone or just want a super great nourishing mask. 

Bonvivant Botanical Mask Pack is another favorite, I was able to snag 40 masks from them @ $.50 a piece. They have a few different ones that would be great for dryness but I really love this Adenosine + Acai mask because it’s a sheet mask loaded with milk essence! So it’s a little bit more moisturizing than your regular runny clear essence sheet mask. 

Lipids, fat, and cholesterol, give me it all.

Hydrating is still very important in the winter time however I recommend to most of my clients to start incorporating at least one type of lipid based product into their routine at least once a day. Hydrating gets our skin pulling in humidity but doesn’t necessarily help it stay in there. In fact they do nothing for our epidermal lipids; Which keep all the good inside, and all the bad, out. With colder weather present is should be a no brainer as to why we want to keep this lipids in tact and replenished. Facial oils and occlusive moisturizers(we’ll see this later) are great ways to add these to your routine. 

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Korres Wild Rose Brightening Oil is a beast in beautiful package. (With real rose petals at the bottom!) It contains demethyl isosorbide, an ingredient that enhances penetration so for people who don’t really like the feeling of oil on their skin, this can be a great place to start. Not to mention it’s loaded with a SUPER stable form of vitamin C called SUPER C (or Ascorbyl Tretraisopamitate) which is supposed to be a highly stabilized vitamin C that is 10x better at absorbing as well. Bisabolol and ginger root are also found in this oil to help calm inflammation and irritation. 

For a customized approach. Tosowoong’s 100% Fermented Camellia Oil is a favorite. You can mix this into moisturizers, foundations, bb creams, or layer it before or even after moisturizer to add extra moisture and protection. This product being 100% such a heavy oil, is really best for spot application. It’s also very hard to spread, therefore taking some in your palms isn’t really easy either. 

Last but not least, Boscia’s Tsubaki Oil. Also loaded with camellia oil (that’s what tsubaki is) but features a few different types of oil to make the consistency much much more appealing. This is better for someone who may want all over application, or just something more viscous but still incredibly moisturizing. 

Baby your under-eyes

Your eyes suck. They may be pretty or w/e but they suck at producing moisture for themselves. So that leaves our eye area needing some extra attention. MIZON has made my only go-to option now to help fight the cold and dry. 

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MIZON Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream is packed with ~42% marine collagen, this puppy is mooooooisturizing. It’s ‘firming’ title comes from it’s nice array of great supporting ingredients. Main one being Copper Tripeptide-1, a power ingredient responsible for firming and lifting. Also is said to reduce damage and crosslinked collagen (scarring tissue). To top it off you’ll also find, adenosine, argan oil, and hyaluronic acid. 

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y’all… look how thick it is.

Yes, you do want moisturizer twice a day. 

So many people I know only moisturize once a day. That can be totally fine sometimes, especially during the summer. But winter is one of those times again, where I try to encourage people to step their skin routine up. At least by swapping some of their lighter products out, or adding a hydrating step or two. Here are some moisturizers that I recommend and prefer for the colder times. They can be considered occlusive moisturizers because they help trap in our own natural production of moisture and protect it.

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Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream knocked my socks off. Containing no dimethicone, or heavy butters. This moisturizer is a phenomenal option for those who are oily to combo. Based with 64% snail secretion goodness, this will give your skin a boost of hydration as well as help aid in repair processing. Benton, being great and being benton, also loaded this with EGF, Hyaluronic Acid, Squalene and Niacinamide. 4 of my favorite things I’m not joking. 

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Yay for REN! This cream is a backbone in the brand and once you try it, you can see why. This superior protecting cream features a ‘Global Protection Complex’ that helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays, pollution and more. It’s repairing with triglycerides from calendula oil that repair the skin’s hydrolipidic film. Amazing for those with super dry and/or irritated skin because it contains chamomile and bisabolol (the component in chamomile that makes it anti-irritation anti-inflammatory, and anti-redness)

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Then we have this master line from Dr. Jart+. Who almost never does wrong in my book, here are two products from their (No, it’s not a ‘he!’ There’s a Dr. J but no “Dr. Jart”) Ceramidin line. Which is heavy on….. Ceramides! and also other supporting ingredients. Ceramides are the ‘building blocks of our moisture’. If you think of your skin cells as bricks, ceramides would be the mortar in between. Neat, huh? My favorite recommendation is the Ceramidin Liquid and Ceramidin Cream layered for the driest, saddest skin.  

Sleeping Packs are the cherry on top.

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If you wanna insure all that hard work you put into your routine absorbs, I recommend a Sleeping Pack/Mask These pictured are 3 more nourishing or occlusive type sleeping masks. 

Fresh’s Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask is a super rich mask that sports hyaluronic acid, peptides, and of course nutrient rich black tea ferment. A great one-and-done option for those with less steps in their routine, as it can be too thick for most with a long routine. 

CosRx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask: oh my god my partner sent me this I believe over a year ago of an advertisement for this mask so I’m actually not gonna say sh** about it and let this masterpiece do the talking.  

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Amazing..

I just wanna say after that… The last has sum banana in it and smells good. 

Physical Location vs Online Asian Beauty Shopping

After heading into Portland for a day and checking out what they had to offer as far as Asian Beauty shopping goes, I feel like I have been to enough brick and mortar locations in enough areas that I can talk about the differences between the two. 

Physical Location shopping is my favorite and it always will be hands down. Like obv win: you get to see, touch, smell, try products and that’s beautiful. But it does come at a cost in america. Online businesses often times can cut their prices down much below retail price. But it must be said, Asian Beauty is a market so products fluctuate prices. I’ve also purchased products in store cheaper than online. I really think the best way to explain this more is to show some examples. Note: these are the prices when purchased, and could have been a while ago. 

It’s Skin Propolis Effector I purchased for $18 in SF, CA it retails online from Memeboxusa right now for $13. Why did I knowingly waste $5? Instant gratification. I got to ooh and aah at the packaging on the car ride home. I’ll sit there with Google Translate on my iPhone and translate what doesn’t have english (and even what does). Bottom line it’s a blast. I purchased SKINFOOD rice wash off mask in Portland, OR for $14 but it retails on Sokoglam for $10. But Sokoglam doesn’t have free shipping at $10, nor do I want to wait. I wanna get home and slather it on!

One trip back to SF I purchased May Island Mela-Tox masks for $2, when online the cheapest I could find individually was $3.20, score!

I think it all boils down to how much you want to spend. If you’re used to shopping at sephora, shopping in Asian Beauty stores will be like a candy store. They were for me at first until I QUICKLY grew accustomed to the generally cheaper prices. Then you kinda turn into a stingy old lady that complains about things being cheaper online (but you don’t actually say it b/c that’s rude!) So I’ve placed a lot of rules on my shopping that only I remember but they’re good tips if you find yourself inside an asian beauty store!

Mainly sheet mask purchasing:

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you can easily try many types of sheet masks often at deals like buy 7 for 5. You don’t have to worry about box buying to make your $ count.

The more ridiculous the packaging is the more overpriced the item will most likely be: 

Things like Tony Moly Prestige Jeju Snail Cream I have seen priced $100+ in store but only $48 on koreadepart. An obvious purchase to do online if I chose.

Japanese and Taiwanese masks are generally the most cost efficient, especially for frequent masking:

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(My Beauty Diary 8pc Brightening (left) & My Scheming 10pc 7-in-one (right) )

I used to use pretty much only Korean sheet masks until I started physical asian beauty shopping which in some places only have japanese/taiwanese sheet masks for sale (most asian markets). PureSmile, My Beauty Diary, and My Scheming are brands you’ll often see in asian markets. My favorite are PureSmile they even have lil eye flaps. 

Check prices of products online before deciding if you want to purchase in store or wait until you get home:

Simple as that. Too much of a markup? Save it! Only a couple bucks different? Why not!

This is what an online haul looks for me for comparison to the above from in store purchases: 

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No masks!!! (well some forehead patches I can’t find in store around me) I got some nifty products you can’t get in stores like 60pc of Sulwhasoo brightening cleanser sample packets to try, or Mizon’s coveted 8% AHA serum. (Actually now that it’s back in stock I did spot it in SF for some ridiculous price like $40).

Stores have worse return policies than websites:

I’m not even joking. I haven’t been to a single AB location that has accepted returns, opened or not. But I’m sure this has to do with many of the location running razor thin margins. If you buy from a reputable online website you’ll generally find some sort of return policy. I love sephora for their return policy, I also love memebox for theirs (it can’t compete with sephora’s but not many can). 

So have fun with your Asian Beauty adventures but be wise with your purchases. Pesky sales people can sometimes get in the way but if you take your time and play it’s really a great adventure. I know I can’t leave those places without at least a couple of sheet masks, minimum. But don’t be afraid to go home and order a few products so you can try more out for dollar.  

K-Beauty Haircare Saved My Scalp

Let’s talk hair for a min. When I first started really getting into Asian Beauty I knew there was of course a hair care market and it’s also less western friendly. Not a ton of translations on packaging, much harder to find in stores, and less reviews except for most of the big hair brands.

I want to introduce you to two of them. Ryo, who is owned by AMOREPACIFIC and La’Dor a very affordable and potent brand.

RYO

Let’s start with Ryo (sometimes written Ryoe they’ve simplified the name and dropped the e) This is where I started with my AB hair journey. Being from AMOREPACIFIC, the leader in Korean cosmetics I felt pretty safe starting here. Not to mention many of their shampoos have won awards and gone through multiple revisions. Also I’ve tried many products from both Amore and also their other brands like Sulwhasoo, Laneige, and Happy Bath (YA THE BEER SOAP) and always been impressed.

Ryo is a unique brand because it takes both Hanbang (traditional Korean medicine) and infuses it with high performance, innovative Korean cosmetic R&D.

I started with: Ryo JaYangYunMo Anti-Aging Loss Shampoo for normal to dry hair. Why? Well it sounded heaven sent that’s why. I suffer from mild keratosis pilaris on my forehead. It could also be on my scalp (like my sister) or I could also just have a super dry flakey scalp, but I’ve never made it to see a derm to find out for sure. But as long as I have this shampoo I don’t think I need too.

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What started my AB hair product search was my scalp. I’ve dealt with my finicky scalp since as long as I’ve been washing my own hair and I’ve tried just about every shampoo on the market for it. Most made my scalp worse, (especially those god awful shampoo bars from LUSH. Whoever thought putting pH unbalanced sulfates into a bar and marketing them towards ‘all hair types’ needs to be fired.) I was looking for a shampoo that contained BHAs. But also didn’t want something stripping but also want something that actually washed my hair. Funny enough this guy matched all that criteria.

What I love about it: BHAs exfoliate! If you’ve read my Pore post you should be pretty familiar with BHAs. Quickly, they’re a hydroxy Acid that helps both regulate sebum production and also exfoliates the inside and out of pores. It’s very hard finding a shampoo in the western market with BHAs and you most likely won’t find one inside a store. It’s a lathering shampoo (my thick hair and problem scalp don’t mix well with co-washes and other surfactant free shampoos.) however it’s still perfectly pH balanced to 5.5. Right where our scalp should be. It’s also infused with oodles of Hanbang to really just knock your socks off. Ginger and green tea help protect and nourish while skullcap, licorice, and biota seed strengthen hair from the root. There’s also some soothing Hanbang ingredients to provide immediate relief too! Coix and Wilfordi root soothe and cool the scalp. (You can really feel this great sensation if you’ve been itching or just extra dry)

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(see all those lil bits of herbal goodness in there?!)

I love the smell. It does smell like the produce section of your local Asian market however, something about making your entire apartment smell like such is soo satisfying and it lathers beautifully.

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As far as the anti aging benefits go, personally I don’t see much but I also won’t! I have a crazy amount of thick hair however, on my partner who has pretty thin hair I’ve noticed over the past few months it getting increasingly thicker. Slowly but surely but it’s pretty amazing stuff and have no doubt I’ll be thanking it when I’m 60 and have a full head of hair still (like can we rly pray this happens)

La’dor

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Since I rambled about Ryo for so long I’m trying to make this about LADOR short and sweet. Just like the brand. Free of chemical ingredients, artificial colors, parabens, and alcohol and formulations are very simple. Wrap it up with it’s crazy good price tag, it’s really one worth talking about.

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LADOR Hydro LPP Treatment is a win for me. The first product I tried from them and I’m glad I started with it. This treatment is pH balanced to 4.5 and includes ingredients like keratin and collagen to help strengthen hair from the core. I’ve also been mixing it with my Pravana ChromaSilk Vivids in Silver and making a silver conditioner rinse to keep my blonde nice a cool, it’s been keeping my hair strong through the more frequent color deposits especially during such a cold fall. It does have a bit of an ‘old lady smell’ to it but their other products definitely have a much more enjoyable scent to them. My only complaint is my hair still needs ‘something else’ afterwards. It’s just not quite moisturizing enough to just hop out and blow dry.

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As for the Damage Protector Acid Shampoo.. I can’t say it was my favorite, but it wasn’t the worst. Seeing it’s pH being so acidic at 4.5 I figured this would feel about the same as my Ryo shampoo which is sulfate free but pH 5.5. It felt unfortunately like a regular shampoo which no slip whatsoever. I do however like the scent but I don’t think I’ll be finishing this one.

So that’s my taste of AB haircare for you guys. I’ll have more to come, especially once I find a conditioner I really like in this realm.

✌︎

Sunscreen 201

Yeah it’s sunscreen 201 not 101 because I’m givin’ you to some higher sunscreen knowledge.

First let’s talk about the types of damage our skin faces from the sun. They say that sun damage is the #1 cause of age on the skin. Even ahead of free-radical (pollution) damage. UV rays are the culprits for this, there are 3 different types of UV rays:

UV(A)ging

UV(B)urning

UV©rispy [I made that one up but you’ll see why]

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(credit: coola.com) (they make some bomb sunscreens too btw)

As we can see UVA rays penetrate the deepest, because of this these rays are the ones responsible for what is known as photo-damage. Photo-damage can come in the form of: dark spots, uneven skin tone, dehydrated skin; and worst of all, accelerated aging. These are actually the most prominent rays making up 95% of radiation from the sun that penetrates the OZone layer. These are also emitted from traditional indoor lighting sources too. (Yeah your lamp might be aging you I’m not even shitting you) LED lighting is said to produce no harmful amount of these rays. (HOWEVER ENOUGH TO ATTRACT MOTHS TO THE LIGHT STILL THANKS GUYS)

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(This is Bill McElligot, a truck driver for over 30 yrs showing increased UVA damage, car windows block 100% UVB rays but don’t do much when it comes to the sleeper UV rays)

UVB rays don’t always reach the epidermis, and frankly we don’t want them reaching us at all. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, pink arms, and all the unpleasant sensations that come along with “too much sun”

Then we have UVC rays, which I will explain even though it’s irrelevant to most of the world. These are the strongest, most intense rays from the sun, and they actually cannot penetrate the OZone layer. However, since we’ve caused a couple holes in the southern hemisphere there are areas which you can be exposed to these rays. But hypothetically speaking, any prolonged exposure to UVC rays will cause much more damage than the other two. 

Now we know what sun damage is and what causes it, lets talk about SPF. Spf stand for Sun Protection Factor and this is the measuring system used to tell us how well the sunscreen can protect against UVB rays. Specifically speaking, SPF will tell you how much longer before you would start to burn. SPF 20 is 20 times longer. 35 is 35 times longer. But this is frankly a useless way to look at SPF in my opinion since reapplication, formula, percentage, quality, etc are all factors. SPF can range from 10 all the way to ‘50+’. SPF is also not a linear rating system so SPF 20 isn’t double the protection of SPF 10. Here’s a chart of protection: 

SPF 0: 0%     SPF 10: 90%

SPF 15: 93% SPF 30: 97%

SPF 50+: 99%

No there’s nothing higher than SPF 50 no matter what neutrogena tries to tell you! There’s no 100% protection from the sun unless you’re just not being exposed to it. Most brands now, and any brand with integrity simply state ‘SPF 50+’ as an indicator there may be a temporary effect of a ‘higher spf’. Everyday use is recommend of course but a minimum of 15 should be worn everyday, while an SPF 30-50 is more suitable for going to the beach, etc. Some sunscreens can have a less pleasant texture when delivering more protection.

Now there’s also another rating system we see sometimes on sunscreens called PA. This stands for “Protection of uvA” The PA rating can This is actually a conversion from how the rest of the world rates sunscreen for UVA (remember aging!) Ratings range from PA+ to PA++++ of course the more pluses the more protection. 

Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB are called ‘broad spectrum’. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase at least once in your life.

Now that you know the Sun is the devil, we’ll move on to the different types of sunscreen. Physical vs. Chemical.

 Physical sunscreens are minerals that block and reflect harmful UV rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are currently The only two physical sunscreens. Both happen to be broad-spectrum sunscreens, meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Because of how these sunscreens work they can often times leave a sick and uncomfortable feelings.Physical sunscreens interact less with the skin compared to chemical sunscreens, making them more ideal for sensitive skin. These minerals are naturally white, therefore they can meet a white cast for streaking if not tinted. Considered to be the safest sunscreen option by most however there’s a lot of controversy over their saftey and the possibility of nano sized particles of these known carcinogens absorbing through our skin into our blood stream. I’m not frankly worried about it and don’t think you should be either. But hey, that’s just me. 

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Drunk Elephant Umbra Defense (Left) VS Tony Moly Mild Mango Block (Right)

The drunk elephant sunscreen is 20% zinc oxide, no fragrance so it smells like… mineral sunscreen.. or aka pennies. But this is to show the ‘white cast’ effect. Which in this physical sunscreen it’s minimized since there’s color correcting pigment added.

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Chemical sunscreens are also known as organic sunscreens. Reason being they are generally derived from carbon. Chemical sunscreens generally work by causing a chemical reaction that converts the harmful UV rays into heat which then leaves our skin. These can cause irritation to some sensitive skin. Benefit over physical sunscreens is the increased UVA protection.These do take up to 20 minutes to activate. Some chemical filters can generate free radicals so we see many of them packed with an antioxidant boost to cancel out that effect. Some filters like avobenzone are very unstable, however it is one of the filters that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Filter sunscreens have a tendency to be light weight compared to physical sunscreens, they also do not produce a white cast making them in a great choice for any skin tone.

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(credit: futurederm.com)

While there are a slew of different chemical sunscreens and they all have their own pros and cons. Many sunscreens actually aren’t sold in the US but can be purchased overseas in countries more conscious about their skin darkening. The US FDA is very slow at approving things (but also very slow and banning things it doesn’t make sense)

 I hope this helps you navigate your next sunscreen purchase!

美容护肤

What’s found in fortified bread, but also in skincare?

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)

[REVIEW] CosRx Galactomyces Whitening Power Essence: Skin Perfected Under $20

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)

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Here’s the OVERWHELMINGLY LONG AND SCARY INGREDIENT LIST:

Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide,Sodium Hyaluronate, Betaine, Panthenol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Allantoin, Butylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol, Adenosine

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.

AB SKINCARE 201: Essences

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What is an Essence? Essence is an ambiguous word. Like most names for things in skincare. A good example of this is how many products are called a ‘lotion’ we know (some of us may not and it’s very okay) that a lotion basically means any sort of topical product with a low viscosity. Ask Wikipedia she knows. But if we look at some different products that say lotion they can be complete opposites. Like SK-II’s Clear lotion is similar to a cleansing toner with a watery texture. Clinique’s oh-so famous Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion is a lightweight moisturizer. So before someone gets their panties in a bunch saying I am talking about some different types of products in this, well I am! But also take a step back from thinking there one way to do things and it has to be perfect. It’s a mindset I sometimes start to develop when researching products.

We’ll start with the DEFINITIVE points of an essence. Essence is usually your first step of treatment. (What about toner) Yes! Nowadays toner is usually a treatment step and could be considered an essence. It will provide a pre-moisturizing effect on the skin and help product absorption of whatever we are applying on top! Thats about as concrete Essences get.

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First Treatment Essence (or FTE) is usually a yeast dominate product. Some containing as much as 97% yeast ferment. These are also usually watery essences feeling a lot like toner. They usually have some sort of humectant ingredient as well to help the product actually adhere and soak in (remember our skin is naturally hydrophobic!). Why yeast? Yeast ferment is loaded with b-vitamins and as they are amazing with supporting cell function inside of the body they are also pretty fantastic at it on the skin as well! We see a promotion of skin cell turnover with yeast ferments so it can help in correcting many issues. This is a reason why they’re so popular in the skincare world. Kinda like how retinol can help with sun damage, acne scarring, acne, wrinkles, etc by helping our skin turn skin cells over faster.

My favorite has to be SK-II’s First Treatment Essence. It’s the first of the first. Containing 90% yeast ferment, this ferment was discovered by accident in a Sake brewery quite some time ago! It’s also what Cate Blanchett says she owes her skin’s perfect aging too! It’s been heard she’s scared flight attendance wearing SK-II’s Facial Treatment masks (containing a concentrated version of their FTE) on flights. (Which is a totally awesome idea if I wouldn’t get questioned and looked at funny on a regular flight). Even though other FTE have been shown to do similar if not the same because they come from similar yeast ferments like SK-IIs Pitera. That’s the name of the yeast ferment if you were wondering. But I do also enjoy MISSHA’s FTE as well! Containing 80% yeast 10% skin friendly ingredients like niacinamide for brightening, licorice root for soothing. You can find the whole list of them on MISSHA’s website. Most opt for something like MISSHA’s because it has other ingredients that are super helpful as well as it not costing $99 for 2.5oz up to $290 for their jumbo 11ozer. (The bottles above are the regular MISSHA size of FTE and SK-II’s 2.5oz, I also paid 36 dollars for MISSHA’s on sale and I wouldn’t own SK-II’s period if it wasn’t a gift.)

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Essence(?)

Majority of essences that do not fall under the FTE category have a gel consistency and all have different key ingredients for different concerns. My personal favorite is Maycoop’s Raw Sauce. With a high content of maple water and a nice watery gel consistency you’re skin feels super dewy and hydrated with this guy alone. Some will use it as a light moisturizer because of it’s amazing hydrating properties.

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Treatment Toner/Lotion

Most of these will fall somewhere in-between the feeling of what would be just called a plain old ‘essence’ and FTE. This name definitely has more consistencies than others because it’s a more common american name, and americans do whatever the hell they want. Fresh’s Black Tea Instant Infusion Treatment Toner is actually loaded with a yeast ferment as well as some other goodies like Polysaccharides to help with smoothing the skin and Hyaluronic acid to help soak and seal the product in. Kenzoki’s Melt-In Moisturizing Lotion is technically a gel moisturizer with very little hydration but I love it as a essence since its glycerin heavy, a humectant like hylauronic to help it soak in (and whatever we put on top!) 

Some things to remember when looking at purchasing an essence:

  • Don’t look at the type of product it describes it as, it can make it more confusing. Look for something that sounds like it would benefit your concerns and needs in your skincare!
  • No it’s not necessary! But can give you that boost you’ve been looking for!
  • Pat/lightly slap/press/knead into the skin. Products with a lighter consistency can need a little extra help getting into the skin. Clarins’ website is actually loaded with how to’s on applying products and they’re very accurate and similar to what I do at home! http://int.clarins.com/en/why-clarins-expertise-advice/application-methods.html

[ROUTINE POST] AM Skin Routine

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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

[REVIEW] MIZON Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule

Ampoule Up Your Skincare

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.

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