Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner
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
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
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
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.
This product is $18 on StratiaSkin.com but again, I usually stock up during sales.
SNP Bird's Nest Aqua Ampoule Mask
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.
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.
Before and After skin transformation from Spring 2016 to Autumn 2017! If you want to read my current skincare routine in its entirety, I just wrote it up in a blog post. Click the link in my bio to read 👆👆👆 - #skincarecommunity #instaskincare #rasianbeauty #beforeandafter #365inskincare #carolinehironsmademedoit #skincarejunkie #skincareroutine #morningskincare #eveningskincare #sdsm #stratiaskin #bioderma #whamisa #cosrx #vichyusa #snailskincare #hormonalacne
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
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
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
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.
- 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!