2017 Favorites: Makeup

If 2016 was my year of perfecting makeup techniques, 2017 was the year I really indulged in the products that elevated those techniques. I don't have a tiny collection, and I don't have a huge one. I am pleased to say I took great joy in the products I own this year, without having excess items that didn't get much love.

Some of the products I'll be talking about were purchased prior to 2017- they're not all new or new-to-me but they represent what I enjoyed most this year!

Stellar Limitless Foundation

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I can't believe I've only been using this product since June of 2017. It kind of feels like it's always been there for me. In any case, since I purchased this product, I have not found its equal within or without my existing collection. I usually wear a full face of makeup with powder, highlighter, and blush, but in the photo above I was only using the Stellar foundation for my base. This is a light-medium buildable to medium-full coverage foundation with a skinlike but not overly dewy finish. It's extremely longwearing on my oily skin when set with a powder, but I have spoken to many drier-skinned women who find it hydrating/wearable for them as well. 

To me this is a masterfully made formula, because of its versatility on different skin types, and the fact that it is such a "beautifying" foundation. Some foundation is just like paint- it covers your face in a uniform color, but it needs to be prodded, tweaked, spritzed, and buffed to actually improve your overall face. The Stellar Limitless Foundation is something that can be swiped on in a hurry, and it immediately makes you look like a better version of yourself. I can compare it in that way to the MAC Face & Body, although it is much less dewy, and has considerably more coverage. I never hear "Your foundation looks great" when I wear this, I hear "Wow your skin looks amazing!"

In addition to that rare beautifying quality that makes it so unique, the color range of Stellar's foundations is phenomenal for someone like me (neutral-warm olive) who doesn't like to use traditional yellow-toned foundation straight up. Their latest shade offering is S01, which is what I wear, and it's between an NC20 and NC25 in MAC terms, but it has a swampy yellow-green undertone, unlike the schoolbus yellow of some other companies' warm tones. This line in general caters toward the medium toned part of the spectrum, paying careful attention to the way real skintones work in real life, not just using a sliding scale and distributing 12 shades across a Pantone color gradient.

The last thing that I have to rave about is that the Stellar foundation is seamlessly skin-like. I usually dot my foundation on using fingers and then go back in to blend with a sponge, but if I get distracted in between those steps, I've actually forgotten to blend the Stellar because it meshes with my skin so beautifully. This is not just a colormatch issue, this happens because the texture is so fine and flattering on the surface of the skin. I find that it looks beautiful up-close in person but even nicer in photos, if possible. All around a truly stellar (heh heh) addition to the foundation market in 2017.

Tom Ford Eye Duo in Naked Bronze

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File this product under "worth the hype, and then some." Tom Ford makes several shades of this cream/powder duo, but this is the standout in my opinion. I purchased this because smoky bronze is my favorite flattering eyeshadow color. I am pretty faithful to Urban Decay Smog for a powder shadow look, but I wanted one cream to use as a single wash in case I was in a hurry or traveling.

I have tried and hated a lot of cream shadows. MAC Paint Pots, Maybelline Color Tattoos, Kiko Shadow Sticks- to me they all had one defect in common- they do not blend out seamlessly at the edges. For some people with very sculptural, dynamic eye shapes, this is not a problem. I personally have a plain-Jane eye area. It needs carving and smoking and swooping and sculpting to look really good and most cream shadows don't allow for that.

Tom Ford Naked Bronze however- it contains multitudes. It is a sheer neutral-warm satin brown when applied lightly, and it builds to a lustrous medium dirty bronze, and then finally to a metallic chocolate bronze with an even heavier hand. Because it can be blended out to create a soft, seamless crease, it doesn't require fussing or partner products. It just looks good. And I haven't even mentioned the pressed glitter half yet- it can be left off for a smokier look or popped on top for a burst of glittery sheen. This truly is the one eye look that I can't mess up, and the fact that it can be adjusted and worn at about 6 different levels of drama/formality makes it unique among other "single wash" products.

If you are cooler than me, try the single Cream Color shade Platinum. If you are significantly paler, try the Golden Peach duo.

Addiction Blushes

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Although my love affair with Surratt blushes continues, my wandering eyes landed on blushes made by the Japanese brand Addiction this year. My friend with impeccable blush taste compared the texture of these blushes to Surratt, so when I visited Japan in October I took the opportunity to pick some up. Since I got home, I've regretted only buying 2 shades.

These are powder blushes that have a feel in between a traditional soft powder and a powder-gelรฉe formula (like the Clinique Cheek Pops.) The color range is quite extensive with more than 20 available shades, but I think where they shine is their selection of nude blushes and more saturated scary-in-the-pan shades.

The two shades I first purchased are Revenge and Amazing. The former looks like a bright red in the pan, similar to NARS Exhibit A, and the second is a fuchsia-bubblegum on first glance. However, both apply so seamlessly and sheerly I have to wonder what kind of deal with the devil the formulators at Addiction have done to get this so right. When applying bright/intense blush I typically layer the most intense shade over a nude, soft one to diffuse the edges and aid blending. However, the Addiction blushes are so fine and sheer that they can be whacked on carelessly without looking streaky or patchy.

Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Eyeshadows

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The Stila liquid glitter shadows were my gateway drug to all things glitter. In 2017, I went from owning almost nothing that could qualify even as high-shimmer to a collection that's heavily weighted in the fabulous direction. Partly through coaching by my glitter-obsessed friends, and partly just from my own experimentation, I learned how to wear glitter in a "casual" way. Although glitter is a shorthand for New Years Eve and nights out, I mostly wear glitter in the daytime to my office.

The Stila shadows made the transition from a satin/pearl dimension to the glitter life totally seamless. My favorite shades from the line are the ones with no base tone, as they make versatile toppers for any eye look. The Gold Goddess shade is a neutral, not-too-yellow gold, and Diamond Dust is an ultra-reflective silver with some holographic sparkle. I don't find too much extra utility in the shades with tinted bases, because I prefer to do 90% of my eye look with powders, and add sparkle as a final step. However I have seen many people wear the colored-base Stila shadows beautifully. My personal favorite ways to wear them are as a smattering on the inner eye corner, all along my lower lashline, and as the center "pop" in a halo eye.

These shadows make glitter application foolproof, as they require no special primer, they do not create excessive fallout, and the formula distributes glitter very evenly with no effort. I particularly enjoy that the pieces of glitter are quite flat, large, and irregular, which gives a broken-glass type effect. I find it to be more editorial and interesting compared to what I call "pinprick" glitter which often looks more like remnants of a kindergarten craft project.

MAC Next to Nothing Pressed Powder

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One of my greatest makeup challenges is achieving a dewy, glowy base while keeping my makeup in place for 10+ hours. It often feels like you have to pick one or the other as an oily-skinned person, but this year I tried the brand-new MAC Next to Nothing powder and all my satin-dew dreams came true. I was a devotee of the famous Laura Mercier translucent loose powder, but I always had a few complaints. It was just a hair too matte and quite inconvenient for travel. The MAC powder improves upon both of those issues- it has a beautiful "strong" setting power but it only barely mattifies the skin/foundation. It's travel-friendly and comes pressed in the standard MAC compact.

I use this powder in the shade Light Plus. It does not offer any coverage, but it is not a true translucent powder. It took me 6 months to fully use up a single compact, and I gladly repurchased it when I realized that all the other powders in my stash were seriously lacking. I prefer it to the sexier-looking Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Powder, which is ever so slightly too-mattifying, and on the flipside actually has worse oil control compared to the MAC.

Clinique Chubby Stick in Whole Lotta Honey

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When I first started wearing lipstick, it was always fully opaque, satin or matte formulas. I scoffed at the idea of sheer lipsticks, partly because I recalled trying crappy tinted balms in the past, and also because I doubted the impact and definition a sheer formula could offer. I actually received Whole Lotta Honey as a gift from a friend in 2016, but I really started rocking it often in this past calendar year. It's a semi-glossy sheer formula housed in a twist-up crayon format, and its magic lies in the exact balance of depth and pigmentation. Most sheer lipsticks are too weak to make a difference, or too pigmented to be considered low-key. I have crooked lip lines, which means most lipsticks require application with a lip brush to look decent. I can literally scribble Whole Lotta Honey on without a mirror and it looks good, no, great.

This swatches a muted orangey-brown but once applied to my lips, it manifests as a peachy nude. My natural lip tone is a pale, dead-looking cool pink, which doesn't harmonize well with the warmth in the rest of my features. Whole Lotta Honey goes with any subtle look, and most warm-toned dramatic looks. It even works well with some cooler eye looks, depending on what blush I pair with the look. It also works well to modify many of my other lipsticks. Layered over a too-stark or too-dry color, it can add plumpness and warmth where it's missing. Most of my lip products stay in my bookshelf where I can pick through them based on what my mood is that day, but Whole Lotta Honey literally lives on my vanity. I use it so often, alone or layered with other colors, that it doesn't make sense to ever put it away!

NARS Audrey

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On the heels of a rave for a super-subtle lipstick, let me rave a bit about one of my favorite dramatic lipsticks of the year. NARS Audrey is a satin-finish berry that has some magical undertone I cannot find a perfect dupe for. I actually avoided buying this lipstick for over a year because it seemed crazy to pay NARS Audacious prices for a berry shade, a lipstick category that is saturated at drugstore and high-end price points. But in this case, I ended up wasting more money on failed dupes than I would have if I'd just shelled out for Audrey from the beginning!

Audrey is uniquely flattering for my muted, yellowy skin. It's neither too bright nor too muted. Berry shades with too much brown tend to make my face look dull or dragged-down. Berry shades that lean pink turn neon on me, and that's just not the look I'm aiming for every day. Audrey is strangely muted without being brown or blackened. It is clearly cool (berry) and not a plain red lipstick. It brightens my face without screaming for attention. It just works. The lesson I learned from Audrey is that everyone can wear some version of a color category. You just have to be adventurous and willing to kiss a lot of lipstick frogs.


2017 was a great year for makeup, personally, and for the market as a whole. I learned a lot about my own face and preferences, and the fast-paced release schedule in 2017 meant that companies were constantly one-upping each other and improving their offerings. It can be dizzying to face the enormous variety on the cosmetic market today, but remember that you as the consumer can only benefit from increased competition. A competitive market economy propels technology and innovation forward, while putting a downward pressure on retail prices. The increased availability of different products should excite you, as it will allow for a collection more finely tuned to your exact preferences.

Don't ever feel that you as an individual must own all the exciting new things. Each of us can only take so much, financially and mentally. Stay focused on finding things that suit your face and your budget, and that bring you joy. I love to stay on top of new releases, but I also don't regard each new makeup collection as an opportunity to buy. If you ever feel stressed over the number of new releases, just return to what you enjoy about makeup- and focus on your own goals. Part of the reason I wrote this post is it makes me happy to use a single product to death. The more products I own, the less I can use my favorites. That's something I try to keep in mind, and it might help you if you are having doubts about your makeup collection. 


What to Do with a Niacinamide Allergy

If you've spent any time perusing ingredients lists or learning about skincare science, you've come across niacinamide. Niacinamide is an antioxidant/vitamin (Vitamin B3) and it is a gold star ingredient for so many skin types and problems. From the title of this post you've probably guessed- but I have an unfortunate allergy to the ingredient. And I've met many others who share this problem. Usually an ingredient sensitivity is no big whoop- most ingredients have easy "dupes" which replicate the same effect. Not quite so with niacinamide- and that's because niacinamide does so many damn things, and it does them so well...

  • Repairs damaged moisture barrier
  • Soothes and relieves irritation and redness
  • Works well to diminish acne
  • Assists in fading hyperpigmentation

This wonder-ingredient does it all, and for the people who can happily use it, go away nobody likes you, but if you are allergic like me, here are some of the ingredients I've substituted in my routine in place of common niacinamide products. I will also list some great products I have successfully used that achieved for me what niacinamide does for others, but keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list. Since niacinamide is such a superstar, I am taking a multi-pronged approach to "duping" its presence in a routine- I will talk about both ingredients and delivery systems that can help with the same problems niacinamide addresses...

Barrier Repair

Those of you with dehydrated skin will be familiar with the concept of the skin's natural moisture barrier. The moisture barrier is the mechanism by which our skin protects itself and holds moisture. It is of utmost importance to skin health, function, and appearance. Dehydrated skin can be dull, flaky, painful, and prone to inflamed acne. Where niacinamide usually swoops in to help fix up a damaged moisture barrier, I substitute a few key elements...

  • Ceramides: Ceramides and niacinamide are best buddies, found in many formulations side-by-side. But you don't need niacinamide to have a party. Ceramides, paired with fatty acids and cholesterol are still great for topical use to bolster a damaged or weakened moisture barrier. They're common in creams, but you can also find some toners and serums that contain these powerhouses.
  • Facial oils: I neglected facial oils for a long time, thinking my oily skin didn't need them or wouldn't like them. I was incredibly wrong. I now think that basically everyone can benefit from some type of facial oil blend in their daily routine. Indeed, if you are suffering some type of dehydration in particular, you will probably find that the right mix of oils will help your skin recover some of its bounce and resilience.
  • Heavy petrolatum-based balms: Niacinamide helps fix your moisture barrier, actively. Occlusive agents, petrolatum being the best of the best, won't immediately "go to work" on your skin, but they protect it and bolster its ability to repair itself naturally. It's not like a surgery to reset a bone, but like a cast to protect it while it heals. Sensitivites to petrolatum occur, but they are incredibly rare. It's something any skincare beginner can adapt to their routine, as it's unlikely to cause breakouts, but will absolutely get your moisturizing routine off to a good start.

Cerave Moisturizing Cream
Meishoku Ceracolla Gel
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

Facial oils:
Stratia Fortify Oil
The Ordinary Squalane Oil
The Ordinary Marula Oil

Petrolatum-based occlusives:
Cerave Healing Ointment


  • Copper Tripeptide: This is a bit of a hand-wavey next-gen antioxidant, but after using some copper products for a few months, I can see the redness reduction and pro-skin repair effects on my own face. I think that in the next 5 years, we will see more research and products with this ingredients, which encourages collagen production and reduces inflammation. Great for acneic and aging skin concerns.
  • Snail Mucin: There's a reason things like starfish and bee venom have somewhat faded in popularity, but snail remains a staple in so many Asian skincare lovers' routines. Products containing snail tend to be exceptionally good at relieving irritation, redness, and inflammation. Great for use if your skin is irritated by climate, excessive picking (hey you! Stop that!), or a breakout.
  • Madecassoside/Centella/Madecassic Acid: This ingredient can be found in a pure botanical extract form and some derivatives.
via LaRochePosay.us


NIOD Copper Amino Isolate
Skin Biology Super CP Serum

Mizon All in One Snail Repair Cream
CosRX Snail 96 Essence

Klairs Supple Preparation Toner
La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5


Of course there are many treatments out there for acne, but what makes niacinamide so useful for an acneic person is its gentle nature. Many acne-focused ingredients are harsh, sensitizing, and can cause problems for beginners. I will not be talking about those obvious acne treatments, but the ones that fall in the same category as niacinamide- gentle, fairly foolproof, and supplemental to harsher steps you might already have.

  • Azelaic acid: I have personally found that AzA resolves my inflamed acne with fewer side effects and greater speed compared to BHA and retinoids. Read this excellent Snow White and the Asian Pear post for more AzA details. A great benefit of AzA is it works to relieve inflammation, redness, and rosacea as well as acne, so it's the antithesis of your average drying acne treatment. 
  • Honey: Raw honey will always have a special place in my heart. Its ability to repair and soothe skin while giving the effect of a more-drying clay mask makes it a no-brainer weekly treatment for acne-prone folks. Here is my method for creating mess-free DIY honey masks which you can use regularly- daily if you like. Honey is nourishing, gentle, and purifying for acne-riddled skin. It's something you can use alongside any acne regimen.
  • Tea Tree: I know, I know- so many people would call this "harsh" and unforgiving as far as acne treatments go. The problem most people have is they either use alcohol-laden formulas with a tiny hint of tea tree or they commit the mortal sin of applying tea tree oil straight up to their faces. This will give you horrible chemical burns eventually, and is not advisable under any conditions. However, I find TTO mixed at a 2% concentration into a gentle carrier oil (jojoba, argan, camellia, mineral, rosehip, squalane) makes for a lovely gentle allover treatment. I use a few drops mixed into my moisturizer nearly every day to incorporate this anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredient without compromising my skin's moisture levels.
via Glowrecipe.com


Azelaic Acid:
The Ordinary 10% Azelaic Acid Suspension
Melazepam 20% Cream

Raw honey

Tea tree:
DIY 2% tea tree oil blend
LJH Tea Tree Essence

Fading Hyperpigmentation

  • Arbutin: Alpha-arbutin promotes skin brightening and fading of visible UV damage in the form of dark spots/post acne spots. It's rarer than niacinamide, but I've found it to be excellent for brightening, caring for PIH, and overall skin tone. 
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is definitely a little stronger/more intense than niacinamide, but it's not quite as tricky to introduce as an exfoliating acid. L-Ascorbic Acid is the form of Vitamin C that has the most proven efficacy for affecting skin tone and texture, and can be found in many serums. This is a great active to use, even if you are already using acids or retinoids.
  • Licorice root extract: Found in many Asian skincare products, licorice is an all-round great- not quite as multifunctional as niacinamide, but it comes close. Its main benefits are brightening and soothing for redness/irritation. 
via Amazon.com


DHC Arbutin Masks
Hada Labo Shirojyun Line
Kikumasamune High Moist Lotion

Vitamin C:
Timeless Vitamin C Serum
Stratia Vitamin C (coming soon-
check the Stratia Instagram Page!)

Licorice Root:
Paula's Choice Redness Relief Toner
TonyMoly I'm Real Mask (Rice)
Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner


2017 Favorites: Skincare

Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner

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2016 saw me raving about Klairs Supple Preparation Toner. It was the first Asian toner that didn't break me out and actually gave me visible hydration results. I recommended it to dozens of people, many who ended up loving it as much as me. Then I betrayed the happy little relationship and cheated with the brand-new Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner.

This toner is a product of the collaboration between the Korean brand Whamisa and the USA-based KBeauty shop Glow Recipe. It contains alcohol, making it unsuitable for some sensitive skins, but perfect for my oily, dehydration-prone face. This toner gives me a bounce and radiance I don't get from the Klairs. It absorbs quickly and gets the job done, making it ideal for quick routines and long luxurious ones alike.

I think of this as the little sister of the (original) Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid. Though she be watery, yea she is mighty. I can apply multiple layers of this for the "7 Skin Method" or just a single layer, and my skin immediately looks smoother and more hydrated.

I purchase this product from Target.com where it runs between $15 and $22 depending on current coupons and sales.

Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk

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First cleansers came and went this year- I've bounced between oils, balms, and micellar waters. But the one thing that remained constant is the Velvet Cleansing Milk. This cleanser is stickier to the touch compared to something like Ponds Cold Cream. You'd never mistake it for a leave-on lotion, it's undoubtedly a cleanser. It's texture makes it luxurious and oh-so-gentle when applied to a damp or dry face and massaged. It glides over the skin but latches onto dirt and grime, whisking it away without leaving a trace.

National Parks/Forests here in the USA often have signs which instruct you to Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories from protected wildlife areas (i.e. don't throw garbage on the ground, don't kidnap squirrels.) That's the sentiment that I always recall when talking about the Velvet Cleansing Milk. It somehow leaves zero residue, yet it doesn't strip anything away that shouldn't be removed.

I purchase this product from StratiaSkin.com where it is $15 full price, but I wait for the occasional 20% off sales that Stratia holds for major holiday weekends.

Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Mask

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I bought this mask as kind of a joke- har har let's see what these suckers paying $9.00 per mask are wasting their time on- and I ended up pranking myself, bro. Because this $9.00 slippery gel mask has become indispensable in my routine. I actually rearranged my skincare budget simply to allow for at least a once per week use of this mask.

The effects I notice cannot be overstated. When my skin is stressed out, either because I myself am stressed, or because I touched it, picked it, flew on an airplane, wore my makeup for too long...this stops the skin stress in its tracks and actually reverses it. It produces a pure and beaming glow on my face that looks like I've applied an expensive illuminating primer. It smooths the rough edges on healing acne. It flattens cysts in their tracks. It restores a firm plump texture to deflated, dehydrated skin.

I love having a stash of these bad boys because it I ever have a desperate SOS (Save our Skin) week when everything seems to be going up in flames, I will apply one mask at night, follow with a simple nighttime routine, and then apply one  more mask the next morning, and it is a guarantee that my bad skin week will be dead in the water.

The only complaint I have for this mask, and it's minor, is that the jelly residue it leaves on the skin is unwearable under makeup and does not fully absorb. It does not leave a heavy sensation, but if you rub anything on top- oil, cream, foundation, it will get streaky and pilly. So it's best to use at nighttime, or when you use in the daytime, rinse briefly with water. That sounds horrible, like you're wasting the precious essence, but my skin still looks just as incredible when I wear this as a morning mask and then rinse gently with water only.

I purchase these from Glow Recipe when there is a 25% off discount, or through Amazon Prime when I'm in a rush at $9/each.

Stratia Fortify Oil

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Another Stratia rave- I can't help it! Fortify is an oil blend that made me believe in oils again. It's composed of camellia, borage, perilla, squalane, marula, jojoba, cranberry, and tamanu oils, and the ratio is just-right for restoring, soothing, and protecting the skin. The name Fortify is apt-  I feel that this has strengthened my skin barrier and allowed it to take a bit more abuse without falling back into its old ways. It heals irritation and gives a bouncy, pliable texture to my skin.

In the past, a few major events would trigger a full-on skin meltdown. These include the transition from Fall to Winter and airplane travel. I traveled internationally this fall and my skin got a double wallop, yet it remained perfectly in balance, and actually continued to improve during my trip and after I got home. I attribute a large chunk of the credit to Fortify, as it's the one item I didn't skip in a single morning or nighttime routine during my travels. Between jet lag and general fatigue, I admit that I had a hard time completing my usual 10 step night routine. But I always applied a puddle of Fortify, sometimes mixed with essence, sometimes mixed with my night cream, sometimes just used alone after washing my face. And my skin was happy as a clam.

There are so many options for facial oils nowadays- you can purchase raw ingredients or buy from a number of brands who make their own. I think that the Stratia Fortify is a must-have for any facial oil lover, and a great beginner oil due to the versatile texture (neither too light nor too heavy) and the reasonable price point.

This product is $18 on StratiaSkin.com but again, I usually stock up during sales.

SNP Bird's Nest Aqua Ampoule Mask

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This humble cotton sheet mask has beaten out the dozens of masks I tried in 2016 and 2017 to win my heart. One thing first off- it is much cheaper than the Whamisa, but it does not have quite the miraculous all-round effects of that one. What it does is drench my skin in moisture and fix any tightness, flaking, or dehydration issues that come with hormonal swings, travel, and climate changes.

My skin responds very poorly to indoor heating and A/C, so it's at war with my office climate during the summers and winters especially. My occlusive morning routine is usually enough to prevent any major damage, but when I feel parched, I slather on Stratia Fortify and slap on the SNP mask, and all is right in the world. There are dozens of "types" of sheet masks out there, but nearly every one of them provides a basic level of hydration. The SNP destroys every other sheet mask I've sampled as far as hydration goes. It absorbs into my skin completely and the effects last for days. It also gives me a great radiance boost, which only lasts about 24 hours (compared to the multiple-days glow I get from the Whamisa) but it's lighter texture makes it an exceptional special event/morning mask.

I purchase these through eBay and Amazon where a 10-pack runs between $14 and $16.


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Oh Deciem, you science-washing, pretentious, crap-at-logistics company, you. I've expressed what I find distasteful about the Deciem umbrella of brands as a whole, but I do believe they offer quite a few quality products. NIOD is the expensive and elegant member of the Deciem family, and the products in their range often boast very odd and next-gen ingredients. SDSM2 is one such product. Its full name is the Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist 2 (the first version was reformulated and improved upon this year.)

It claims to prevent water loss, reduce oxidative/environmental stress, and improve skin's ability to repair. I did not want to love this product, due to the price and my lukewarm feelings toward the company that makes it. However, I can say in the month and a half since I began using it, I notice my skin having that tiny bit more resilience to dehydration. The week before I started SDSM2, I felt the creeping tightness usually associated with winter right after washing my face, and after 4 days of using the mist, that was gone (without additional tweaks to my routine.)

After blowing through a third of my bottle, as the fine mist feels luxurious spritzed 10-12 times per use, I saw someone on Instagram suggest to dispense it into your palm and press it on like a first essence. That works like gangbusters, has the same effects as a more liberal mist, and stretches this bottle of liquid money much further. When I repurchase this, I plan to decant it into a dropper bottle which allows for even greater control over the portion size.


After struggling with beastly hormonal acne for years, I have found a miracle cure in Azelaic Acid. I began my current treatment plan of 20% azelaic acid the first week of December 2016, and while I saw dramatic results within the first few weeks, the gains have only snowballed since then.

Azelaic acid addresses redness and acne but it is not a traditional exfoliating acid like BHA or AHA, so it can be used in an acid-heavy routine without the same risk of dehydration that you get with layering multiple AHAs or BHA. For me, it was much more effective and gentle compared to prescription tretinoin.

I currently use the Melazepam treatment cream, which can be purchased over the counter in the USA via several online sources. It feels like the average prescription acne topical, which is to say it's quite clunky, thick, and drags on the skin. It's not cosmetically elegant, but if you saw results like my before and after...would you care?

I purchase this from Amazon Prime for around $13, and it can also be purchased on VitaminShoppe.com.

Heritage Lavender Spray

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This is the simplest product on my favorites list, and also wins the title of "most ridiculous ingredients list," as it claims to contain specially-magnetized water that benefits the skin. I just want to make it clear that that is pure distilled magnetized stupid, and the reason this spray is a favorite is that it's simple, soothing, and hydrating. You cannot get more basic than a glycerin-in-water mist, which is what the Heritage spray is.

You can easily DIY your own mist if you are confident, own a kitchen scale, and understand the important of preservatives. If not, or you're just lazy like me- this is a wonderful inexpensive option. My skin actually prefers glycerin mists to any mists containing hyaluronic acid, so I'm not bothered by the simplicity. I can tell a huge difference in my skin's moisture levels especially during the winter if I spritz this on between applying my skincare steps.

It smells beautifully of light, non-soapy lavender, and the rosewater version has an equally enchanting smell. If you are not sensitive to or allergic to rosewater, I definitely suggest picking that one up as well.

I buy this on Amazon Prime for between $7 and $9.

Cerave Healing Ointment

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The Cerave Healing Ointment is a hero product that's been featured in many posts of mine. If you're new to skincare, I will always advise you purchase a petrolatum-based ointment to use over your skincare at night. It locks in the moisture, prevents dehydration, and acts as a "crutch" for damaged moisture barriers. Vaseline is the beginner-friendly option due to the price and the simple ingredients list, but if you're ready to level up your #sluglife game, pick up a jar of the Healing Ointment.

I have to note the cost (which ranges from $10 to $20) is extremely reasonable considering I've used it once daily for 13 months and I'm only halfway done with my jar. The product features the all-powerful petrolatum, the single most effective barrier against transepidermal water loss, but it also boasts hyaluronic acid, ceramides, along with fatty ingredients like cholesterol and phytosphingosine. This all-star cast of protective, skin-repairing ingredients are so helpful for repairing dehydration and preventing it in the first place.

I love to mix this with another product to use as a final layer at night, but on lazy days I just use it on its own. It doubles as a "lip sleeping mask" (if you're extra like me) or a plain protective balm. This is one of the best products you can buy in the drugstore, especially if you suffer from tightness, flakiness under makeup, or aggravated breakouts combined with dry-feeling skin (all signs you're dehydrated, by the way, you're welcome.)

I purchase this product from local drugstores and the large jar costs between $10 and $20 depending on coupons and promotions.

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5

A post shared by @faceonomics on

I already can tell 2018 will be the year of the cica-product. These products (usually featuring a mix of madeccasoside, madecassic acid, and zinc) have been common to French pharmacy lines like Avene, Bioderma, and La Roche Posay for many years, but Korean brands are catching on and releasing entire lines based around healing, soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients.

La Roche Posay's version is my favorite of the ones I've tried. I find its blend of madecassic acid, zinc, and panthenol to be exceptionally soothing for anything from an allergic reaction to a painful breakout. Its sticky texture and brief white cast make it more suitable for nighttime used, but honestly I have used it under sunscreen in the morning and it was not the worst.

I always see people mistaking this for a moisturizer- it's not truly a moisturizing product (although it does contain emollient and hydrating ingredients.) Due to the inclusion of zinc, this product has a neutral to net-drying effect. That is to say, for most people, if they attempted to use this as a sole moisturizer, they would probably find themselves drying out within a week. Think of it as you would any drying product- a spot treatment or an exfoliating acid- and baby your skin with extra moisture when you use it. Nothing beats this cream for instant redness and burning/itching relief. I brought this with me on vacation just in case, and I got a horrible allergic reaction rash on my forehead the first morning I arrived- slapped on the Cicaplast when I returned to the hotel and it was gone within a few hours.

If you have a great deal of acne (similar to my Before picture above) and find your pimples are painful or itchy then the Cicaplast Baume will be very useful to you. When you are using something like tretinoin or benzoyl peroxide, and you can't stand the drying nature of additional acids or spot treatments, Cicaplast spread over your affected acne will soothe without overloading your skin.

I purchase this from Amazon Prime for $14.

Honorable Mentions/Farewells

This was the year that all my favorite shit was reformulated or discontinued, because the world is unfair. I want to rave about them but I don't want to make anybody feel sad for missing out so I will simply list them for posterity and as a final goodbye...

  • Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid
  • Dr. Jart Ceramidin Cream
  • Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask Bija
  • Benton Snail Bee Essence

All products mentioned in this post were purchased by me, with no affiliate discounts or gifting involved. Stay tuned for my 2017 MAKEUP Favorites Post, coming up very soon!


How I Apply Blush: Modified Igari Style

Sometimes I apply my blush in the common Western way- on the cheekbones/apples of cheeks alone. But in 2017 I discovered that I love the way my face looks with a modified igari style. Igari describes a blush trend that originated in Japan and is characterized by concentrated, high placement of bright blush. Usually the blush is placed closer to the eyes or nose in contrast with most Western blush placement trends. The name refers to the fact that it lends a slightly irritated look to the eye area, reminiscent of how you might look with a hangover. Sounds unflattering, but you'd be surprised!

In contrast to the traditional igari style, which keeps the majority of the color directly under the outer third of the eyes, I drag the color across my nose bridge and slightly further down onto the apple of my cheek.

Below are some examples of this blush placement:

I prefer to wear bold and noticeable blush, but the placement can be tweaked for a more natural look (as in the second photo above.) This blush technique takes a bit more time and a few more tools compared to the classic one color apple-of-cheek placement, but it's a great technique to have in your arsenal to switch it up.

What You'll Need

Basic supplies needed for this look
  • Bronzer: that suits your skintone- keep it relatively neutral and matte, as you will want it to blend in with your skin
  • Nude blush: Matte or slightly satin powder blush 1-2 shades deeper than your natural skintone
  • Medium blush: Matte or satin powder blush 3-4 shades deeper than your natural skintone
  • Pop of color blush: Matte or satin powder blush in a very vibrant/bright tone- stay away from anything with too much brown or gray in it
  • Narrow blush brush: I suggest the Wayne Goss Air Brush or anything with similar head shape. Can substitute a flat paddle shaped foundation brush.
  • Fluffy blush brush: Should still be a relatively small head- the Real Techniques blush brush is too large for this purpose. Can be natural fiber (squirrel, goat) or duofibre synthetic. I like the Suqqu Blush Brush best but Chikuhodo Z4 is a good option as well.
  • Pointed blush brush (optional): Even narrower than the above two brushes, but with a pointed tip for precise dotting of color. Can substitute a large fluffy eyeshadow brush. I used the Wayne Goss 02 Powder Brush.
Please take special care to coordinate your blush colors. By that I mean you must match the temperature of your blush tones (warm, neutral, cool.) You do not want to have too much contrast in undertone because we are already working with variation in depth, so we will rely on the harmonious tones to carry the look.

If you use something like Hourglass Dim Infusion (a peachy orange nude) topped with NARS Dolce Vita (a rich neutral berry) you will not find it easy to create a harmonious and well-blended but intentional look. Mixing undertones in a complex blush look is possible, it's just not something to attempt before you've practiced the basics.

Before Beginning: Base Makeup

Complete your base routine with foundation or concealer, whatever you like. Take special care to set your foundation in the cheek, cheekbone, and nose area with plenty of powder. You do not want any tackiness or dewiness to remain.

Highlight in the normal fashion (tops of cheekbones) if you like. If you are using mostly luminous/satin blushes, skip this step.

Highlight (if desired!)

Step 1: The Stripening

First, using your flat brush, apply your bronzer in a swiping motion. Skim the tops of your cheekbones and take it over your nose bridge. Concentrate color directly on the bridge of the nose, and along the outer edges of your cheeks. This is necessary for every look- not only "beach babe" ones. If you are after a very bronzey gold look that day, you can use two bronzers, layering a more intense orange one on top of the first neutral one.

Use horizontal tapping and swiping motions with bronzer

Then take your nude blush and the same brush, and retrace the bronzer placement. Feel free to overlap or go outside the border you created, the bronzer will serve as a guide that allows for a fuzzy pre-blended edge with little extra work. Make sure to only use horizontal strokes. This will serve as the stabilizer for the more tricky vibrant colors you layer on top- the fact that it's a nude blush will mean it will blend itself without harsh borders.

Striping motions to apply your nude "blush base"

Step 2: The Sculpting

Now comes time to add some dimension with your second blush color. This time pick up your fluffy brush and apply your second blush in tight, circular motions. Do not cover the entire area of color, but focus on the inner portions of the face. You can sweep/brush the color that you apply outward toward the cheekbone, but focus application on the inner cheeks near your nose bridge. You should also dot the color gently across the nose bridge so the blush on both sides of your face is joined.

Gentle swirling and soft sweeping

Step 3: The Pop

You can actually leave your blush as-is after Step 2. However I always add the final touch of a super vibrant blob of blush right under the iris of each eye. This makes the blush look very dimensional, and it also draws focus to your eyes, making them sparkle. The fresh "bloom" of color you see in all the photos at the top of this post are a result of using a saturated, scary blush, sparingly. Use a dotting motion, swirl slightly if needed. Usually very little buffing is necessary as you are placing it over a base of color, which means the edges of your bright blush won't look garish or unblended.

Adding a splash of vibrant blush finishes the look

Step 4: Final Blend

If desired, take your original flat brush used for bronzer to smooth out the transitions. It is crucial to keep this step brief and light, because if you blend too vigorously, you will negate the use of multiple blushes, and you will find yourself with a completely uniform haze. 

Keep final blend to a bare minimum
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it somewhat illuminating. I have been experimenting with this blush placement a lot this year and it is much more versatile than you might think. It also suits a wide variety of face shapes and noses, but individual exact placement will vary slightly. Experiment and let me know if you need suggestions or further pointers. 

Please come visit me on Instagram and let me know what types of post you'd like me to do next!


Current Skincare Routine

Left: Spring 2016 // Right: Autumn 2017

My skin has come a long way in the last couple of years. Part of that is my hormones stabilizing (and they could go haywire again) but I owe much of the improvements to my routine. I rarely post my routine on Instagram because it looks basically the same every single night/morning. Here are the hows and whys of my current morning and night routine- and what changes I've noticed in my skin since these routines have been in place!

Morning Skincare Routine

Watery antioxidant/prep steps for the morning

Keywords for my morning routine: Smooth, hydrate, plump, protect. 

I wear a full face of makeup every day, so I need my skincare to work in concert with my makeup. I need to look glowy but not greasy, and I want to stop any emergence of flakes or roughness that will mess up the finish of my base.

Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk: This is halfway between a gel and a cream cleanser. It leaves no residue, but it is not a foaming, squeakifying cleanser. I don't think cleansing in the morning is a necessary step for everyone. When I was actively recovering from dehydration, I completely abstained from a morning cleanse. While this product is important for me to cleanse off the residue from the night before, I can get away with not cleansing some days.

Mizon Daily Clean AHA/BHA Toner: I use this post-cleanse because I rarely use true acids/actives in the morning. Sometimes I want a little smoothing action, and I find this does a gentle job exfoliating but also assists in plumping/hydrating my skin. I don't use this every morning- maybe twice a week.

NIOD Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist: I haven't been shy about my feelings toward the Deciem umbrella of brands, but the SDSM is the one product they make that has become indispensable to me. It functions as an FTE (first treatment essence) in my routine, because it has a watery, fast-absorbing texture. I am allergic to niacinamide, an ingredient found in most FTEs, which promotes water retention in the skin. The SDSM substitutes well, as I noticed less irritation and water loss, as well as quicker healing time since I incorporated it.

Skin Biology 7% GHK-Cu Accelerant: This is a high-priced but not ridiculous (like NIOD) Copper Peptide serum. It is meant to be mixed into any skincare product, and treats my inflammation and irritation. I have noticed an overall calmer, less red appearance when I wake up in the morning since I began using this a few months ago.

Some light, absorbent hydration to start

Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner: I find that my oily and dehydration-prone skin likes some sparing alcoholic skincare, as it soaks in fast and tends to plump and "rubberize" my skin to give me that chok-chok Korean ideal. This toner subtly brightens, soaks in fast, and hydrates my skin while soothing redness.

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid: Another quick-absorbing, multi-faceted hydrator that works excellently to combat and prevent dehydration and dullness.

Paula's Choice Redness Relief Toner for Normal to Dry Skin: Although I do not have dry skin, this toner ticks a lot of boxes for me as a morning step. It incorporates some fatty acids and oils which lend emollience and bounce to my skin without loading me up in grease. Soaks in more slowly and acts as a final step heavy hydrator on top of my watery steps.

Layers of emollient and occlusive ingredients to trap moisture

Klairs Supple Preparation Toner//CosRx Snail 96 Essence//Stratia Fortify: I do a lot of mixing in my day to day routine, because sometimes nobody makes a single perfect product. For daytime, I think that mixing is necessary to balance the exact level of moisture with the amount of residue you're comfortable with. This combination results in a lightly emollient soothing gel.

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum: longtime favorite of mine, this product has become a daytime must-have for me. It traps the slightly oily and slippery early layers of my routine under a blanket of smooth, siliconey goodness. Acts as a hybrid primer and light moisturizer.

Mizon All in One Snail Repair Cream//Simple Hydrating Booster: On very hot, humid days, I'll skip this last step. However, in the cooler months it's more important. I apply this only on my chin/jawline where I'm most prone to dehydration. See this post for why and how I "zone" my face. This mixture of a thick essence with a very rich siliconey gel makes for a makeup-friendly but dehydration-busting layer of occlusivity.

Skin Aqua Sarafit Silky Essence SPF 50: A high SPF is completely non-negotiable for me. If you care at all about photoaging and hyperpigmentation, you cannot live without a daily SPF. I have been lucky enough to find multiple Japanese sunscreens that work excellently for my daily needs. This is a so-called "commuter" sunscreen- great for the type of sun exposure you'd get driving, taking the bus, and walking to lunch- not suited for outdoor sweating, swimming, or all-day high-UV-index exposure. The best sunscreen is one you will use so spend as much money and time as you need to find the perfect one for you.

Evening Skincare Routine

My full nighttime cleansing routine

Keywords for my evening routine: Cleanse, treat, moisturize, strengthen. 

I love a heavy face of moisturizer. As an oily-skinned gal, I think that isn't always the norm. But I find that my dehydration-prone skin and acneic tendencies make me more reliant on heavy occlusive moisturizers. And in the evening, when a greasy appearance is not a bad thing, I go all out. I also need to squeeze in my active ingredients, the ones which treat my acne and keep my skin in balance.

Lancome BiFacil Makeup Remover: Technically skincare, although I limit its use to the eye area- this is my holy grail waterproof makeup remover. I use this on a cotton pad when I'm wearing liner, mascara, or heavy eyeshadow. Otherwise, I skip to the next step.

Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water: I was an oil-cleansing devotee for many years, but in the last 6 months I have found that my skin likes micellar water for a first cleanse. I notice a lot of people leave micellar water on without rinsing, which I find sensitizes and irritates the skin. I use this to remove the bulk of my makeup, then I follow with my second cleanser.

Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk: My favorite gel/milk cleanser. I need to fully remove all residue of makeup, dirt, and sweat from the day, so I will massage this thoroughly after finishing my first cleanse, and then I rinse with warm water.

Mizon Daily Clean AHA/BHA Toner: Again, I don't use this every single night. But I use it if I'm particularly oily, broken-out, or my skin appears stressed (and not dry at all.) I never believed in acid "toners" that weren't real "actives" before this year, but since I added this I noticed increased clarity, improved skin texture, and better hydration.

[1-3 TIMES PER WEEK] DIY Honey Mask: I like to take advantage of the healing, anti-acne benefits of raw honey using this method. Most commercial "honey" products contain propolis, which I'm allergic to, and I find that using pure honey in a DIY mix is extremely effective for acne care and soothing. The benefits are most apparent if you wear this for at least an hour, so I keep this to a single use per week unless my skin is in extreme distress.

My library of actives

[4-5 TIMES PER WEEK] Acid Treatment: I have oily, congestion-prone skin and overactive hormones, so I do need to do regular acne treatment to keep my skin clear. However, in the grand scheme of things, I'd say I have a fairly light to moderate schedule of actives. I find that exfoliating every single night, no matter how gentle, isn't right for my skin at the moment. I switch between Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA, Alpha Skincare 10% Glycolic Treatment, and Melazepam (20% azelaic acid). I will occasionally double up and use two treatments on one night, but my usual schedule allows for 4-5 total active days, with at least 2 days of "rest" for my skin, when I purely focus on moisturizing.

Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

Klairs Supple Preparation Toner//CosRx Snail 96 Essence//Stratia Fortify

My two HG masks

[1-3 TIMES PER WEEK] Whamisa Organic Flowers Hydrogel Mask OR SNP Bird Nest Aqua Ampoule Mask: I went down the usual Asian Beauty rabbit hole of buying dozens of varieties of sheet masks. Some people enjoy the variety of a large library of masks, but I've settled comfortably on just 2 as my regular treatments. The Whamisa variety is incredibly effective for fixing emerging breakouts, flaky irritation, and dullness. The SNP one is very moisturizing, and when worn on top of my usual essence/oil blend, allows for a super hydrating experience.

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream OR Avene Soothing Moisture Mask: These two qualify as moderately heavy, hydrating night creams. They are slightly too rich to use in the morning, and they do an excellent job of soaking into my skin over the course of a few hours. I will apply this as my "sealing" step around 6 pm, and then I will leave my final step until bedtime.

Paula's Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer: This moisturizer contains less than 1% retinol, not enough to truly qualify as a "treatment" step, however it clarifies and smoothes my skin in a way that an inert moisturizer does not. I will usually only use this once or twice per week, on days I am not exfoliating. And if I'm particularly congested, taking a week off acids, or my barrier is compromised, I will use it more frequently.

Emu oil: Vegans, look away! Emu oil is made from liquified, purified fat from an emu bird. It's famously soothing, rarely causes reactions, and is intensely heavy and moisturizing. A sticky, inelegant oil, this makes no sense for morning use, but I love to mix a few drops into my nighttime moisturizer when my skin is extra thirsty. I find mixing a heavy oil into my night creams gives me more flexibility than having a ton of different creams for different moods.

Sleeping pack to end all sleeping packs

Cerave Healing Ointment//Cerave Moisturizing Cream: Since I posted about this DIY sleeping pack mix early in 2017, I have received so many messages and comments telling me how well it works for others' dehydrated and dry skin types! I find this to be the most effective anti-dehydration barrier out of all the creams and packs I've tried. A sleeping pack is essential if you feel plump when you fall asleep and wake up parched. When I'm sick or dead tired, I will simply do a cleanse and this last step, and I'll wake up looking like a normal human, not a zombie.

What I Do Not Use

Physical Exfoliants: My face responds well to acids. In my experience, my acne only worsens with scrubbing/manual exfoliation, so I stick to the chemicals.

Foaming Cleansers: While I appreciate the cleansing nature of a true gel-foam cleanser, I think that a gentle double cleanse has done more to repair my barrier and keep it in tip top shape while cleansing thoroughly.

Tretinoin: Currently my skin does not tolerate tretinoin, and I have found full resolution to my severe acne using the above exfoliants. I may begin a tretinoin or retinol treatment in a few years, but for now I am happy with sunscreen and antioxidants as preventative aging care.

"Oil-free" Products: Oil-free was a 90s-era-sham perpetrated on the skincare public! Oils are good- no, oils are great! I never avoid oil in my products, and I will often use a few extra drops of my favorite oil blends when my skin is unhappy.

Eye Cream: I actually have no issue with eye creams generally- I just don't need one right now. I bring my moisturizing products all over my eyelids, and I don't suffer from extreme dark circles, so they are an extra unwanted step for me.

And that sums up my routines! A total of 10 steps in the morning and 10-12 steps in the evening. For a complete skincare newbie, remember this particular routine was built over 2 years. A newcomer's routine will include maybe 2-3 products only. My particularly fussy skin demands a high degree of customization- I hope my routine helps you see the potential for great results at all price points and within your own stash.