Review | Skinfood Royal Honey Propolis Essence


Prop·o·lisA red or brown resinous substance collected by honeybees from tree buds, used by them to fill crevices and to seal and varnish honeycombs.

I first heard about the skin care benefits of propolis via Korean beauty blogger/vlogger Hover of Hover’s Jelly. She has used pure propolis extract as part of her skin care regimen for a long time and has raved about its healing and protective properties. A couple of years ago, a study came out that even confirmed propolis’ natural ability to protect the skin from sun damage, which I thought was pretty cool:

New Research Delves Into UV Protection From Herbal Extracts (full article by Simon Pitman, August 2nd, 2012) —

The study authors say they also discovered that a 16% concentration of propolis as a topical application had a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 20, and has proven to be an effective sunblock when applied to mice.

Of course, if you are allergic to bees or bee by-products, it’s best to consult your physician before using products with such ingredients on your face!

Many people attest to propolis’ very intense smell, and I was excited when Hover recommended a stink-free propolis essence on her channel that she has been loving, in lieu of the pure extract. So in comes Skinfood Royal Honey Propolis Essence. For those that don’t have direct access to Korean beauty products, it’s available at a number of online Asian beauty e-tailers like Korea Depart, Cosmetic Love, TesterKorea, as well as eBay and Amazon . I purchased mine on eBay (seller: BringBringShop) for around $22 when it was on sale (you can usually find it in the $20-$35 range online.)

And let me just say, Korean beauty companies have truly mastered the art of irresistible packaging. It came as a stand-alone glass bottle wrapped in a clear plastic seal. It didn’t come with any information or instructions in English. Attached was a small tag with only Korean text.
SF_RH_PE_tagYou get 50mL of essence. The cap is quite unique to me — when you twist it to remove, a button pops up for you to press and dispense the essence from a pipette. I think it’s a lot nicer than a regular dropper, and it feels more secure. Note that the pretty yellow-orange ombré color you see on the bottle is not the color of the essence, but rather the coloring of the glass. The essence itself is practically clear and colorless, from what I can tell.
INGREDIENTS (via CosDNA): Propolis extract (50%), royal jelly extract (20%), honey extract (10%), glycerol, dipropylene glycol, butylene glycol, portulaca oleracea extract, arginine, beta-glucan, disodium EDTA, sodium hyaluronate, hydroxyethylcellulose, carbomer, phenoxyethanol.

I appreciate that all the key ingredients are at the very top of the list, and I like that there are no artificial colors or fragrances. It’s filled with lots of different moisturizers. The consistency is sort of a gooey gel (like watered-down honey). There is no discernible scent, which is nice, since I’m not a huge fan of fragrance in skin care. I need only one drop for my entire face, and it spreads easily without feeling sticky. It sinks right into the skin while it leaves a hydrating layer on the surface.
I prefer using it only at night. If I use it during the day, it’s only when I’m not wearing any base makeup, because it feels a little bit heavy for me sitting under a foundation or BB cream.

While the texture is great, and it has an awesome ingredients list, this essence seemed a bit too emollient for my oily skin for daily/nightly use. It’s very hydrating, but for me it would be better to use regularly during the colder months when my skin is a little bit drier, or even just when my skin is feeling irritated and needs to be soothed and protected. I’ve used it around the under-eye area where it can get quite dry and it has worked really well for that purpose too, but I wouldn’t recommend applying it to your lips — it has a very bitter taste!

It hasn’t seemed to cause any clogged pores or breakouts after a few weeks of use. I think people with dry skin who aren’t sensitive to bee byproducts could really enjoy this as a very effective moisturizer.

If you’re curious about incorporating propolis into your skin care routine, this could be a product worth checking out. If you’ve tried it before, or other bee-inspired skin care items, I’d love to know your opinion.

Review | Daltokki Facial Scrub


[…] most Korean children can tell you about the daltokki, or moon rabbit, that spends each night making the elixir of life with his mortar and pestle. Visit Korea

I heard about the Daltokki Facial Scrub from Lily of IAmABeautyJunkee. I’ve been wanting to try a rice scrub, and she raved about this one being very gentle yet also very thorough in cleansing, and that it doubled as a wonderful brightening rice-based mask as well, so I thought I’d give it a try.

There wasn’t much information I could find online about this product, as this seems to be a lesser-known Korean brand. They don’t even have a company website. I had to purchase this mask on eBay (prices vary by seller). It’s also available on KoreaDepart and GMarket.

I managed to find some information about the product in English on BuyKorea:

• Being made of round grains of glutinous rice, you can use with less stimulation regardless of skin type.
• Sticky glutinous rice makes sticky skin.
• Prolamine, Tocopherol [a form of vitamin E] : Giving vitality to your skin.
• Rich in Vitamins : Calming skin and supplying nutrition.
• Both of scrubbing and cleansing at the same time.

• Glutinous rice : Rich in vitamins and various nutrients
• 9 kinds of plant extracts (oregano leaf, eucalyptus oil, licorice, rosemary leaf, green tea, scutellaria [mint], centella asiatica, chamomile flower, reynoutria)

• Coat your face with water sufficiently.
• Apply it onto the face with moderate volume.
• Softly massage just only with your fingers for about 30 seconds.
• Wash your face with tepid water.
• Use toner or essence or etc. for moisturizing.

• Keep it refrigerated or in a cool place.
• Be careful to keep water off it and to use only spatula or tea spoon.

The scrub comes in a 90mL container with a small plastic spatula enclosed in a box sleeve. When you screw off the cap, there is another removable cover underneath to keep the contents more secure.

The first thing I noticed about this scrub was the scent. It’s more heavily perfumed than I would like (for a skin care product). It’s not an offensive smell, but it is a bit strong for me — I can’t quite put my finger on the exact fragrance, but to me it’s kind of floral. The scrub itself is an off-white color with a granular texture. The consistency is pretty gooey and sticky, but on wet skin, it smooths out more easily. I used to use St. Ives Apricot Scrub, and the granules in this scrub feel gentler in comparison.

I have yet to find an exact ingredients list in English. All of the text on the container is in Korean (with the exception of the name on the cap). If you know what any of the text means, I’d love to hear the translations in the comments below!

I massaged it over damp skin for about 20-30 seconds, and decided to try to leave it on as a mask (rice and licorice are popular brightening/tone-correcting ingredients in Asian skin care). I intended to let it sit for about 10 minutes, but I had to rinse off after just a minute or two, because to my surprise, my skin started to feel very irritated. I thought that maybe the heavy fragrance (and/or one/some of the many plant extracts/oils in this scrub) was what was bothering my skin (essential oils can be very irritating for some people when applied topically).

After rinsing, my skin felt fine, and it actually felt very hydrated. This scrub leaves a moisturizing layer on the skin after rinsing. The smell of the scrub lingers for about an hour or so. I’m not that fond of it, as strong floral scents can sometimes give me a headache. I was worried that I’d wake up the next day with some kind of allergic reaction, but thankfully my skin felt fine. Definitely softer and more polished.

If you have very sensitive, reactive skin, I’d probably think twice before trying this scrub because it’s loaded with essential oils/fragrance that may be irritating to some people. At the very least, do a patch test on a small area before applying it to the entire face. I don’t recommend using this on inflamed/open acne.

My skin isn’t normally sensitive, but the strong fragrance in this scrub is probably an indicator of how highly concentrated the plant oils are within the ingredients. For its intended purpose as a scrub, it works really well, if you can handle the smell (the granules are gentle enough while still doing a nice job thoroughly exfoliating), and it’s surprisingly quite moisturizing, but it’s far too much for my skin to handle as a mask, which is fine since that is not it’s original purpose anyway. I would like this scrub a lot more if it just wasn’t so heavily-perfumed!


People with dry skin might really enjoy this scrub, given that they are not sensitive to strong fragrances.

Have you tried the Daltokki Facial Scrub? Let me know what you thought about it. Do you have any favorite rice masks or scrubs that you’d recommend?

Review | Farmhouse Fresh Sundae Best Mask


I love chocolate. A lot. So when I came across this on Amazon, I was excited to try it out. The brand is Farmhouse Fresh:

Each product is made with up to 99.6% natural and naturally-derived ingredients. Everything we make is Paraben & Sulfate FREE and our fragrances are all natural or phthalate free. Many of our products are also Vegan and Gluten Free. — (from their website)

This particular product is their Sundae Best Chocolate Softening Mask. It comes in a 3.25 oz. glass jar for $22 on the FHF website. I’ve managed to find it for a few bucks cheaper on Amazon.




It’s not an acne-fighting mask, but more of a skin-softener/wrinkle-fighter (not that I’m trying to really fight wrinkles, but it’s a chocolate mask, so I couldn’t resist…).

And it looks and smells just like brownie batter or chocolate pudding. Can’t attest to the taste though, but I think it’s neat that caramel is the third ingredient on the list, with cocoa powder not too far behind.

Keep in mind that it isn’t an oil-free mask — it contains various natural oils like jojoba, coconut, and sweet almond as moisturizers.  Also note that this particular mask is not vegan. as it contains royal jelly.



I admit, it took a little bit of willpower not to lick my hand clean. It looks and smells so good! It was very easy to spread and didn’t feel grainy at all — very smooth. It dries by hardening a bit, without “pulling” on your skin too much, and it was easy to rinse off with just water. It felt good lounging around, the smell of cocoa wafting all around me. The mask did tingle a little bit, but it wasn’t uncomfortable or irritating. I think the oils in this mask helped to ensure that my face wasn’t tight/dry after rinsing. This is definitely one of the gentler clay masks I’ve tried.

Since this mask is supposed to flush the skin with a little bit of redness, it’s not recommended for people who have sensitive skin or rosacea (they recommend their Pajama Paste (yogurt) mask instead). For anti-acne properties, their Splendid Dirt (pumpkin) mask would best suit you.

My favorite part about this mask is the smell and natural ingredients. My skin was definitely softer after use, but I think I’ve gotten very similar results from less expensive masks I’ve tried. After using it a few times, I haven’t had any issues with this mask causing clogged pores (considering the oils). I think for my oily, acne-prone skin, their pumpkin mask would be better for my needs. But like I said, the smell and awesome ingredients list are what win me over with this. Sundae Best would be best suited for those with more mature skin types who are not particularly sensitive.

Have you tried any of the FHF masks? Any favorites?

A New Year

new_yearMy sisters and I (that’s me in the white sweater) with our significant others this past Christmas.

Long time no blog! It’s hard to believe that it’s already March and we’re a couple weeks away from Spring. It’s been a pretty snowy February up here in the northeast, and I still long for those mild Tucson winters. But so far, it’s been a pretty good year. My sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, my twin sister, Jackie, is getting married later this month to a guy that I love like an older brother, I’ve been doing a lot more artwork lately, and Jon and I are planning a trip to Iceland this Spring!

Jon, me, Jackie, and her fiancée, Chris.

At the end of last year, I was caught up with a lot of anxiety and stress, so I started busying myself with other creative endeavors and began digital painting again. Maybe if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll start an art blog/portfolio blog in the future. We’ll see! In the meantime, you can see more of my artwork on my DeviantArt page here.

nova_artworkA sample of my more recent work!

I haven’t fallen off the beauty blogging bandwagon. and I actually have a bunch of new stuff I want to share and review within the next few weeks, especially skin care items. This bitter cold weather has me itching (literally) to try some new things.

Hope you’re managing to stay warm! How’s your year been so far?

Natural Skin Care | Neem Seed Oil


I first heard about neem seed oil when I visited the Bahamas a couple of years ago. It’s a popular natural remedy for things like acne, mosquito bites, fungal infections, eczema, psoriasis, and other similar skin conditions.

neem_treeA neem tree in Freeport, Bahamas.

It wasn’t until a month or so ago that I decided to try it out for myself. I’ve long been faithful to tea tree oil as a natural acne-fighter, and when I realized that neem seed oil has very similar antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to tea tree oil, I thought it would be a nice substitute for the cooler months, since it’s also supposed to be very moisturizing. If you’ve ever used tea tree oil or tea tree oil-rich products, you’ll know that it acts like an astringent, making it somewhat drying (great for oily skin in the summertime!).

I purchased a 1 oz. sample of unrefined neem seed oil from Garden of Wisdom. (Side note: GoW is a gold mine for anyone who likes dabbling in homemade/natural/DIY face/body/hair care. They have pretty much every raw ingredient — oils, clays, herbs, acids, preservatives, etc. — you could ever ask for at reasonable prices.) It came in a simple no-frills plastic bottle with a flip cap.


Perhaps the one thing that sets this oil apart from other carrier oils is the smell. This stuff is pungent! It’s a very strong, savory smell. GoW describes it as akin to “being in an authentic Thai restaurant” which I think is an accurate description. It smells like sauce or curry. And it kind of looks like it too. Definitely more viscous than tea tree oil. If you’re very sensitive to strong smells, you might not like this, to be quite honest.


I decided to try using this as the only step in my skin care regimen after cleansing — as a combination moisturizer and acne treatment. I was hesitant to use this in the day time, because I didn’t want to go to work smelling “questionable”… The odor took some getting used to, but when applied thinly, seems to mostly fade away. Oh, and be careful not to get this stuff on your lips — it tastes extremely bitter.

It sits on the skin for a little while, and I find that it doesn’t quite absorb completely. It always leaves a bit of a “layer” on the skin, which I liked, when my skin was feeling dry. The extra moisture got rid of all of my dry patches completely, and my skin felt hydrated and balanced again.

However, after a couple more weeks of consistent use, I began to notice tiny little bumps popping up on my cheeks and forehead. I decided to stop using the oil for a bit, wondering if maybe this new addition to my skin care was the culprit. Sure enough, the tiny clogs eventually went away. Unfortunately, this did not work for my acne-prone skin, as it was perhaps a little too rich and moisturizing for me.

I have, however, used it for other purposes with better success, such as with insect bites or small skin wounds. The healing properties are certainly there, but of course with any oil, “your mileage may vary.” Some acne-prone people swear by this to keep their skin clear, but I’m not one of them. Nevertheless, it’s still a great skin hydrator and healer, if you can tolerate the smell.

If you’re curious to try neem seed oil out on your blemished skin, definitely patch-test for a few days first.

Have you ever tried neem seed oil or neem products? What did you think?

Natural Skin Care | Witch Hazel


Witch hazel is one of my favorite natural skin care ingredients. I’ve been using it as a toner and makeup remover for several years, as well as a treatment for insect bites. I think it’s similar to tea tree oil, in that it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and acts as a natural astringent. It’s quite nice for oily, blemished skin.


T.N. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel | Website
I’ve been through countless bottles of this stuff. I mainly use it during the summer, when my skin is very, very oily. This does contain alcohol, so those with dry skin may find it too astringent. It smells a little odd at first… an herbal/alcohol smell? But I’ve gotten used to it. It’s a nice natural way to remove excess oil, dirt, or makeup.
dickinsons_witch_hazelINGREDIENTS: Witch hazel (100% all natural), Alcohol (14%).

Thayers Alcohol-Free Cucumber Witch Hazel | Website
This is better suited for drier skin and/or colder months because it’s both alcohol-free and contains aloe vera, a natural moisturizer. I think I may even like this brand a little bit better, because it has the same benefits of Dickinson’s without being too drying, so I can use it all-year-round. I think this would be better for those with drier, more sensitive skin. And it smells so refreshing… like real cucumber juice. Their rose petal water witch hazel is probably their more popular version. I may give that one a try after I finish this bottle.
thayers_witch_hazelINGREDIENTS: Purified Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Certified Organic Filet Of Aloe Vera), Glycerin (Vegetable), Hamamelis Virginiana (made from Certified Organic Witch Hazel) Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Citric Acid, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract.

Both brands are significantly more cost-effective compared to “finished” toners you find in the skin care aisle. Aside from using witch hazel by itself for toning, you could also add it to homemade face masks as well to calm blemished skin.

Have you ever used witch hazel as part of your skin care routine? What did you think?

Fun Find | The Wild Unknown Tarot


As mentioned in my previous post, I recently started playing around with tarot cards again. I came across The Wild Unknown Tarot and was immediately drawn to the artwork.

It is a self-published deck that was illustrated by the very talented Kim Krans. It’s a standard 78-card deck. It comes in a sturdy box with a black lifting ribbon. In lieu of the typical “little white book,” the deck is accompanied by a double-sided fold-out sheet. It lists the meanings of each suit (swords, cups, wands, pentacles) of the minor arcana, the major arcana, as well as each individual card with a few keywords. Sort of like a tarot cheat sheet. The guidebook comes separately. It features an introduction to the tarot, how to do simple spreads, grayscale images of the cards and goes into more depth with the artist’s interpretations and meanings.


If you’re looking for a deck that mirrors the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, this is not it. It’s easy to see how some of the cards “nod to” some of the RWS symbolism, but overall this deck is quite unique.

Each card measures 4.75″ x 2.75″. They’re made of thick, nice quality card stock with a matte finish. They are not glossy or slippery, and feel very comfortable to handle and shuffle. There’s something very primitive and simplistic that I love about the artwork. Krans uses pen, ink and watercolors. I love it when you can literally see the artist’s “process” in the medium they use. Even the backs of the cards are beautiful and kind of hypnotic.


The deck is full of animal and nature imagery. Each suit of court cards features a different animal “family” — instead of your standard page, knight, king and queen, Krans uses daughter, son, mother and father, respectively.


The images are mostly black and white, with a very selective use of color. The limited colors definitely add to the mood of the cards that use them. Some of the cards are quite dark or disturbing (worms, eyeballs, a buffalo carcass), but then there are also cards that are very upbeat and ethereal (butterflies, twinkling stars, rainbows). The deck doesn’t try too hard to be a certain way.

wildunknowntarot_majors wildunknown_minimalcards

Some cards are much more minimalist and abstract than others (see above), which can make it harder for those just starting out with tarot to understand their meanings. But I think it can be more fun this way. It engages our intuition at a very primal level — our response to color, placement, direction of line, negative and positive space, shapes, textures, etc. Meanings may not be as blatantly obvious in representational depictions featuring people or animals, but I think once you do get an idea of what it means, it’s a very honest interpretation.

I’m a big fan of this deck, and I recommend it. I look forward to discovering new things about the imagery as I continue to work with it.

My Tarot Experience


Long time no blog. I’ve rediscovered my interest in the tarot recently and have started putting more effort into working with and understanding the imagery. I’ve been having lots of fun with it, so I thought I’d share my personal experience.

I was first introduced to the tarot in high school, when I acquired my first deck — the Hanson-Roberts deck. It was a time when I was suddenly intrigued with the metaphysical and pagan culture. I’d skim through the cards while perusing the accompanying guidebook. To me, it became more of a game of memorization rather than developing an intuitive thought process. It was kind of overwhelming — “How am I supposed to remember all of this? 78 cards with different meanings (plus reversals!).”

I abandoned the deck for a good few years, but have since become very interested in learning to read the cards again. Jon gifted me a beautiful deck last month — Kat Black’s Golden Tarot, and I’ve been practicing again ever since, even maintaining a tarot journal that I write in almost daily. This time, less effort is spent trying to memorize the traditional meanings, and more is spent on noticing my immediate emotional responses to the images presented to me. It’s a lot of fun to discover that your first instincts often align with what the standard textbook meanings are. For the first time, my tarot cards didn’t feel like flash cards.

I’ve been looking for other decks with artwork that I feel very connected to (there are literally hundreds to choose from) and came across The Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans. The artwork is just so beautiful. I think I’m going to do a separate post just to review the deck.

I’m not seeking to develop “psychic” abilities or become a fortune teller. For a lot of people, tarot is a very spiritual experience (maybe even religious or magical), but for me, it’s more of a practical meditative guide. I think it’s a really fun and interesting way to tap into your creative insight and view certain situations from different perspectives, and maybe even find out more about yourself. I love looking at the artwork and comparing different artists’ interpretations, and learning more about the symbolism and history of such an intricate system.

Do you have any experience working with tarot cards? Have you ever had a reading done? What was it like?

Review | Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence


I recently heard about this product from a few Asian beauty bloggers and vloggers, and it has been touted as an excellent dupe for the infamous[ly expensive] SKII Facial Treatment Essence. While SKII utilizes its own patented fermented yeast ingredient made from sake, Missha’s essence contains a similar yeast byproduct made from beer.

The essence is available on Missha’s website, but I was able to find it for much cheaper on Amazon. You get 150 mL of product.

When I received it, I noticed that there was some extra text on the bottle — the trademarked “ZYOSYS” below the product name. A quick Google search will show the original bottle without this text.


I was worried that I may have received a counterfeit item (also considering how much cheaper I was able to find it), so I decided to contact Missha Customer Service via their website, just to be sure. The next day, I received the following response:


It can be easy to come across fake Asian beauty products online, but fear not if you receive a bottle of this essence with this strange new word on it — it is still genuine.

The packaging is very attractive, but not quite travel-friendly, as it is made of glass and somewhat heavy. The essence is very water-like in consistency (colorless, perhaps slightly more viscous), and has a very faint, hoppy/beer-like scent. It’s called “The First Treatment Essence” because it is supposed to be applied as the first step to your skin care regimen after cleansing. Directions say to gently pat onto clean skin using a cotton pad (like a toner), but I prefer to use my hands so as not to waste any product.

It’s a multi-care skin treatment that’s supposed to hydrate, restore, and brighten the complexion.


missha_trfte_ingredientsINGREDIENTS: Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate (80%), Propanediol,Glycyrrhiza Glabra ( Licorice Root Extract ), Niacinamide, Polyquaternium-51, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Raffinose, Amaranthus Caudatus Seed, Piper Methysticum Leaf/Root Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis, Chamomile Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Tromethamine, Water, Adenosine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Lactic Acid, Phenoxyethanol.

It contains some great ingredients like niacinamide and adenosine (good for mature skin types), licorice root extract (naturally evens and brightens skin tone), lactic acid (a natural chemical exfoliant), as well as a slew of soothing plant-based extracts. Missha touts the main ingredient, saccharomyces ferment filtrate, as “a naturally fortified Vitamin B Group [which] supports and increases the rate of metabolism and maintains healthy skin.”

I like the idea of multi-purpose skin care, and if you can pare down your routine into but a couple of essentials that can work like multiple steps, then why not?

It offers lightweight hydration and absorbs quickly without leaving any residual smell behind. As it is now summer time and the weather is humid, I can forgo my regular moisturizer and toner with this. It seems to be enough for my oily complexion. I have been using it twice a day for over a month, and I really like it so far. My skin looks and feels calmer, less red, more hydrated and refined. I have not noticed any adverse effects, irritation, or breakouts. If you’re looking for something to specifically combat acne, this isn’t it. However, if you want a light hydrating layer that will help to gently refine skin tone and texture, you might like this.