My Updated (again!) skin care and make-up routine

I know, I know, I just wrote about my updated skin care and makeup routine recently. How could I possibly have a new one three months after that post?

Well, for one thing, that routine wasn’t really “new.” It just took me a while to get to write about it. For another, I’ve since fallen into a K-beauty hole that’s resulted in new skin care steps and products being introduced into my routine.  While I was already quite happy with the improvement with my skin then, I’ve seen even more improvement now, that I thought it was worth another post.

New: Chemical Exfoliants

The idea of applying acid on my face conjures images of telenovela villainesses splashing acid on their enemies’ faces to disfigure them forever. But the more I read about exfoliation as part of my skincare overhaul research, I realized I had to give chemical exfoliants a try, flashbacks to Samantha’s chemical peel on Sex and the City notwithstanding. There were too many benefits to using AHAs and BHAs for me to ignore.

When it came to which specific AHA and BHA products to use, it was a no-brainer. Yes, part of it was because the other popular brands (Paula’s Choice, Stridex) were inaccessible and/or too pricey. But I chose COSRX’s AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid and, eventually, BHA Blackhead Power Liquid mostly because of their cult status in the world of K-Beauty. Yes, even the notorious, dumpster-adjacent scent of the AHA liquid has not put off its loyal fans.

All my researched advised that actives should be introduced one by one, and even then, gradually. I started with the AHA, using it once a week for the first two weeks, then slowly built up to twice, and then thrice a week. I then introduced the BHA via the same pattern. I now alternate the BHA and AHA daily.

My skin is now generally softer and smoother, and I’ve had fewer and less frequent blemishes appearing. I now also have fewer sebaceous filaments (commonly mistaken for blackheads) on my nose, and the pores around on and around my nose are less visible (i.e. less clogged). And that’s just with two months of using AHA and one of BHA. I’m so happy with the results that I actually look forward to this step in my skin routine, even with the notorious stench of the AHA.

Replaced: Physical Exfoliant

I’ve finished the last of my St. Ives Apricot Scrub and will never look back. I was stubborn about it, as I loved the way my skin felt after a good scrubbing with it, but articles like this one have finally convinced me that there are better ways to work off my dead skin cells. Enter Skin Food Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash-Off. Not only is it gentler than the giant granules in the St. Ives, it also leaves my skin feeling so much softer and moisturized. It also smells very, very, very good, like a jam you’d want to spread over a bagel with cream cheese. Kerry of Skin and Tonics gives a comprehensive review of the product, if you need more convincing.

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The new guard

Replaced: Sunscreen

I still love the Clinique Even Better City Block Anti-Pollution SPF40 PA+++ and still reach out for it when I’m too lazy to apply foundation on top of my sunscreen. But given that I live in the tropics, SPF40 just won’t cut it for me. I discovered the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA++++ through milady Fiddy Snails, whose review of the product started with the announcement of her engagement to… the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA++++.

And, really, I can’t blame her. This creamy sunscreen lives up to its “Aqua Rich Water Essence” (Kao really wanted to get the “hydration” message across, no?) name. This is the most hydrated my skin has ever felt after applying sunscreen, probably thanks to the sodium hyaluronic (i.e. the salt version of hyaluronic acid) in it. It dries clear despite the slight white cast when initially applied. Another plus? It’s cheap! I can buy three 50ml bottles of the Biore with one small tube of the Clinique.

New: Foundation

As much as I loved my new Biore sunscreen and the extra protection it delivers, I also wanted the cosmetic benefits of the tint in the Clinique. I loved how it evened out my skin tone and made any blemishes or dark spots less prominent. The easy solution, of course, was foundation. After some research, I settled on NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Punjab as my first ever (yeah, I know) bottle of foundation. I was happy with how it tested on my jawline at the counter and bought it, thinking I could try something else if I wasn’t happy with it in the long run. A few months in, though, I’m thinking I might never have to try any other foundation. For some reason (probably the 90s) I always associated foundation with cakey finishes; thick, gloopy liquids; and mismatched faces and necks. But then again they probably didn’t have NARS Sheer Glow in the 90s. The liquid is incredibly light, I don’t feel it at all on my face even when I’ve dispensed too much. It has a semi-matte finish and blends beautifully into my skin and with my skin tone.

The one annoying con I have for this product is that it comes with a screw-on cap by default. Not only do you have to buy the pump separately, the pump doesn’t come with a cover. The kind SA at the NARS boutique gave me a plastic cover (that they use for the counter samples) but it still had a small opening. So even with that cover, the foundation is still not entirely protected from the elements. Get it together, NARS.

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My growing COSRX family

Additional: Moisturizers/Overnight Masks

I love my SK-II Essential Power Cream, but I knew I needed something more substantial for my trip to the London and Paris in the middle of fall. And so began the frantic buying and testing of Korean moisturizers for my trip. I bought three in quick succession and all three made the 18-hour trip to Europe with me. I then purchased another one after the trip because I apparently have a problem.

First was the Benton High Content Snail Bee Steam Cream. I needed something lighter to wear under my sunscreen AND foundation for day. Given that the Benton Steam Cream was Lady Fiddy’s “summer” moisturizer, I figured it might fit the bill. And it sure did. It was occlusive enough to keep my skin soft an moisturized even in the cold and windy Parisian weather, but light and fast-drying enough to comfortably wear under two more layers of product. It didn’t leave an oily or greasy finish or cause my sunscreen or foundation to dry longer. It’s also a fantastic night moisturizer if you don’t have to deal with a radiator sucking the life out of your face. It’s chock full of ingredients that do wonders for your skin. For one thing, it’s 64% snail secretion filtrate (SSF). And if that wasn’t good enough, sodium hyaluronic, niacinamide, EGF, and bee venom are pretty high up in the ingredient list as well. All that good stuff comes together in a cream that is not only very hydrating, but is also great at calming down any redness/irritation, and keeping breakouts at bay.

The rest of my other new moisturizers are all from one brand, COSRX. I wasn’t able to purchase the  COSRX Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask in time for my trip, but in hindsight, it would not have made it with me anyway. Not because it’s not a good product, but because the light, golden gel was probably not the best option for my cold-weather needs. But despite its relative “lightweight” status, with 85% propolis extract (and, despite its name, no honey), this “honey” mask has a lot going for it. Its gel form and slight cooling effect makes it particularly suitable for humid, tropical climates and for people with oil-control issues.

The COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask did make the trip with me, literally. It was with me on my carry-on bag as part of my in-flight skincare arsenal. Because a sheet mask was too scary/creepy/weird, I had to rely on this cream to protect my face from the drying cabin air. And that it did. Even a thin layer of this velvety cream was enough to keep my skin hydrated over my 11-hour flight. It also leaves my skin supple and bouncy even after I’ve wiped (in-flight) or rinsed (on land) the cream off.

The last cream that made it with me to France and the UK was the COSRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream. It was the richest and thickest of all them, so I used it exclusively for nighttime. Unlike the honey mask, this product actually has honey in it, and as the first thing on the list, it’s the most concentrated ingredient in the cream. And as I’ve found with the Etude House I Need You, Honey! mask, my face loves the moisturizing qualities of the sweet stuff, and this is no exception. It was the perfect thing to nourish my skin with after a day of exposure to the stiff fall breeze outdoors and the drying, heated air of indoors. And while it is the heaviest of all the moisturizers in my collection, it’s still comfortable enough to wear at night back home. It’s my go-to when my face feels even a little tight and dry, like on days I end up sitting right under the air conditioning vents at work.

I’m still new to the world of Korean/Asian beauty products so my skincare regimen could still change as I discovered even more new, fantastic products. I already have products that I’ve either just started or will be using soon, and I’ll definitely keep you posted on the ones I really like!

I got my CosRx products from either Amazon or locally (hooray!) via The Skincare Curator.

The Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA++++ I also got via Amazon, but is apparently available in the new and improved beauty section of SM Department Stores. I’ve yet to see this specific product personally, but the rest of Biore’s sunscreen lines were there (Perfect Milk, etc.) with this product out of stock, according to the saleslady. 

The Benton Steam Cream was purchased via Amazon as well. 

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My updated skincare and makeup (what?!) routine

It’s been almost two years since I was featured as one of divasoria’s Glossy girls. While the core of my beauty/grooming regimen has stayed the same, there’s been a lot of changes and additions to it, too.

The changes were mainly driven by a promise I made to myself years ago that when I turn the big three-oh, I would really start taking skincare seriously. I’m not entirely sure why I chose to wait until I turned 30, but considering how my beauty routine somehow expanded to makeup, maybe it was good call, budget-wise. The, errrrrm, “investment” seems to be paying off, though, as I’ve received compliments about the improvement on my skin. It only became “official” to me, though, when even my dermatologist took note of the change while examining my bare face through her giant magnifying glass-slash-light. If my skin held up through that level of scrutiny, then I must be doing something right, no?

My cleansing routine is still the same. I use my Clarisonic most days, scrub with St. Ives once a week, and I give my skin a break by just cleansing with my hands once or twice a week. It’s what happens after that’s gotten a bit more complicated.

I started using MAC’s Lightful C Marine-Bright Formula Softening Lotion as a toner about a month ago. But within a few days of use I could already feel the difference on my skin. It feels softer, and I’ve been less prone to dry patches on my t-zone since.

I follow this up with my trusty Dark Spot Corrector from Clinique. After that comes another newcomer to my routine, SK-II’s Essential Power Cream. It’s pricey, but it only takes a little for it to do the job. It’s firmed up my skin over time, although I’m not sure it will hold up in very cold weather. If I haven’t nodded off immediately after applying the SK-II, then I’ll spray Clinique’s Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief just to up the hydration. For day, I’ll swap out the SK-II with Clinique’s Even Better City Block Anti-Pollution SPF 40 sunscreen, which replaced my old Neutrogena standby. This lightly-tinted sunscreen is non-sticky, leaves no white cast, evens out my skin tone, and reduces redness. I used to wear a CC cream on top of it but tried it out on its own one day and never looked back. My only complaint is that I wish it were SPF50, and not 40.

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Once a week I apply a DIY SK-II Facial Treatment Essence mask, by dampening cotton pads with the essence and covering my face with them. I’ll keep them on my face until the pads dry out and start falling off my face. The essence leaves my face feeling smooth and hydrated.

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I also apply a Tony Moly sheet mask once a week. I’ll stick one in the freezer for a few minutes while I cleanse, then apply the cold mask. I don’t throw out the packaging and apply the left over essence to my face once the mask starts feeling a little dry. I also squeeze out the essence from the mask for one final lather on my face before I finally throw the mask out. The Hyaluronic Acid mask sheet leaves my skin so hydrated, that I can feel the difference even days after I used the mask. Meanwhile my skin feels so soft after the Snail mask sheet that I tend to forget where all that essence comes from. My sheet mask obsession is slowly building, so I have a few other masks that I’ll be trying soon and am excited about. But these two are on regular rotation with me.

Along with my skin care routine, my make up ritual has also expanded. Of course, I had nowhere to go but up, given that my previous “routine” probably doesn’t qualify as one. The one big change was lipstick. Whereas I used to dislike lipstick and how heavy it was, I now almost never leave the house without it. From owning one measly lipstick that was a gift, I now own nine. Not a lot compared to girls who seem to own the entire MAC display rack, but given that I only owned the one a year ago, it’s significant..

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I apply MAC’s Prep + Prime Lip before application. It prevents feathering and flaking, which has always been a problem with my chappy lips. It does give lipstick a slightly pinker tone, though.

My lipsticks from left to right: NARS Audacious in Barbara, a light pink nude; MAC Pro Longwear in ‘Till Tomorrow, my perfect match MLBB; MAC Taupe, a brownish nude; MAC Retro, a darker, pinkish brown and probably my favorite; MAC Dangerous, to me, the perfect red-orange shade (sorry, Lady Danger); MAC Russian Red, my original red; NARS Audacious Sandra, a muted brick-red; MAC Diva, a deep wine; and finally MAC Sin, an even darker, deeper burgundy. I swear these shades are prettier than my poorly-lit photo suggests.

I do love my MACs, but I will say that the NARS Audacious line is fantastic. The payoff is great, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they are actually hydrating, they are definitely not drying, even without primer. They also last the longest of all my lipsticks and withstand a work day’s worth of meals and drinks.

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I’m not really faithful to mascaras, I don’t actually remember buying the same tube twice. My current Tony Moly Double Needs Pang Pang Mascara (yes, that’s what it’s really called) is a little prone to clumping. Although I will say that it definitely delivers on its promise of “no panda eyes!” Even through the longest of work days, my mascara never ends up in a semi-circle under my eyes.

I’ve switched from old eyebrow pencil to MAC’s Lingering, and now also apply MAC’s Brow Set in Beguile.

Blush was the last thing I wanted to use. But my sister had other ideas and gave me MAC’s Pink Swoon for Christmas, knowing full well that I would feel guilty about letting her present go to waste unused. So now I use blush.

I spritz the Clnique Moisture Surge spray on top of everything, and then I’m good to go.

While my current skincare and makeup routine is still probably in the “simple” end of the spectrum, I still find it to be a huge change versus a year ago, when I just applied one thing on my face before going to bed. Now it takes a little more time between bath and bedtime or me rushing out the door for work. But as my burgeoning sheet mask addiction suggests, I am quite enjoying discovering new products, learning about ingredients and formulations, etc. Though plunking down the cash for something un-tested (boooo for no testers and samples!) does stress me out sometimes.

Hopefully I’ll get to write more about any new favorites (did I mention sheet masks?) soon, and maybe you’ll share yours, too (what’s your favorite sheet mask and why?)!