Category Archives: Skin Care

Review | Skinfood Royal Honey Propolis Essence

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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

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[…] 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:

SPECIFICATIONS:
• 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.

INGREDIENTS:
• 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)

HOW TO USE:
• 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.

CAUTIONS:
• 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.
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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!
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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

Natural Skin Care | Neem Seed Oil

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

Review | Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

My Acne Story

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Acne is a sensitive subject for me. It has been a significant source of my insecurity for a very long time. Even now that I am older and my acne is [usually] under control, I still become very self-conscious about my “bad skin days.” For the past couple of years or so, I have been able to find great comfort in hearing about other people’s experiences and struggles with dealing with acne. I thought I’d share my acne story too. 🙂

Yay, Puberty…
I started getting my first pimples in the fifth grade. It didn’t even start to bother me until some of my classmates asked me about it — “What’s that on your forehead?” Ah, the catalyst for years of self-consciousness. My skin started becoming oily, and I developed blackheads on my nose. I started washing my face every day, but when that didn’t seem to be enough, I turned to makeup. I used my mother’s foundation almost every morning to conceal every blemish as best I could.

Middle School & High School
The severity of my acne peaked through middle school and high school. I would describe it as moderate acne. It seemed like when one pimple healed, a few more popped up the next day. And I was a such a “picker.” I remember crying about it sometimes. Before bed, I’d go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, but I wouldn’t turn on the lights because I couldn’t stand seeing my own reflection in the mirror. My doctor prescribed a topical antibiotic. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my skin (except increased irritation) so I was finally referred to my first dermatologist. I was on an oral antibiotic for a little while, but a prescription topical retinoid seemed to provide the most improvement, at least for a few years.

College
Once my skin seemed to be under control for the most part, I eventually stopped the prescription retinoid and just used over-the-counter products for a while. At this point, I was better about cleansing and treating my skin consistently. I was on the ProActiv system for a year or two, but found drugstore brands to be just as good and cost-effective. When I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years into college, all of the emotional stress began manifesting itself physically, and my acne seemed to come back in full force again (which didn’t make dealing with depression any easier of course…). Eventually, I was back at the dermatologist’s office, this time for a combination of topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. My skin got a little bit worse before I started noticing an improvement again.

Post-College & Present
I sort of came across the most effective remedy [for me] by accident when I was prescribed birth control pills for the first time. The unexpected side effect of clear skin seemed to indicate that most of my acne was actually hormonal. For the first time since I hit puberty, my skin was actually pimple-free.

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Of course, this is not to say that what has worked for me will work for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for acne-sufferers. Many people have even been able to find great improvements with a more natural, drug-free approach. It took me many years to figure out how to control my acne. I’ve stuck with a consistent skin care regimen, making sure to cleanse and moisturize daily, as well as apply adequate sun protection. Over time, you start to learn what your skin needs to look and feel its best. I only wish that during that period of trial-and-error, I was better equipped to deal with the emotional issues that came with having acne.

My skin is far from perfect, and I still get breakouts (especially during that time of the month), but instead of longing for “perfection,” I’ve learned to make more of an effort to just take better care of my body and become more comfortable in my own bare skin. My skin is much healthier now than it was years ago, but I’m still working on building my self-esteem back up.

I’ve had people make rude and judgmental comments about my pimples before, and that always fueled the fire of insecurity in me. I’ve never had anyone sit down and tell me that my acne didn’t make me hideous or unattractive. I think having acne held me back from being more comfortable in social situations. If I was having a conversation with someone, I’d always assume that they were looking at my zits, and not at me.

So I’m here to tell you now that acne doesn’t make you ugly, or unclean, or stupid, or unworthy. It may take some time to find what works best for you, but in the mean time, understand that your acne doesn’t define you or lower your value as a person. I know that sometimes it can feel like people are looking at you with a magnifying glass when you’ve got angry blemishes on your face, but nobody’s going to bed at night wondering why you had those big zits on your chin.

How have you dealt with the physical and emotional issues of acne? I’d love to know your story too. 🙂

Review | DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

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For those of us with oily, acne-prone skin, we’re often told to avoid putting oil on our faces matter what. We opt for oil-free skin care and makeup, and we gravitate towards products that promise “oil-control.”

I’ve heard about DHC Deep Cleansing Oil as being a very gentle and effective makeup remover, but I’ve recently learned about how lots of people (even those who are acne-prone) have used it (and other oil-based cleansers like it) to combat zits and clean out pores. Such cleansers work on the principle of “dissolution theory.” It’s the idea that “like dissolves like”; in this case, oil dissolving oil. (Keep in mind that the way I use this cleanser is not the same as the steps used for the Oil Cleansing Method which involves steaming the skin. They’re two different things.) I used to use generic face wipes to remove my makeup before regular cleansing, and I thought this would be a gentler and more natural alternative.

The thought of putting oil on my already-oily face sounded nothing short of disgusting. My skin is very clogged and congested in my T-zone area. My nose seems to always be peppered with blackheads. For me, they’re harder to get rid of than active acne.

I purchased this from Amazon but it is also available on the DHC website for $28.00 (full size). They do offer a smaller size and sample size as well. The full size is 6.7 fl. oz. It comes in a clear plastic pump bottle. The product itself is quite viscous, and has a slight natural olive oil scent.

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INGREDIENTS: olive fruit oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, sorbeth-30 tetraoleate, pentylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, tocopherol, stearyl glycyrrhetinate, rosemary leaf oil

The pump works very well, and it’s easy to control how much you dispense. You must apply the oil to dry skin (yes, makeup and all) with clean, dry hands. If your skin is wet, the oil will emulsify immediately and won’t get a chance to bond to the dirty oil and impurities on your skin. I admit, the sensation of massaging olive oil into my skin was very unsettling at first, especially with makeup on. But I was pleasantly surprised at how clean it rinses off. Some users recommend following up with your regular cleanser. Depending on your skin type, you may skip that step, but since I’m very oily I opt to double-cleanse.

For makeup removal, this is excellent. My base makeup just melts right off without so much as a light massage. It doesn’t seem to irritate my eyes at all either. I’ve also noticed less clogs and blackheads with regular use. When I’m massaging it into my skin, I can sometimes feel little grainy bits under my fingertips — these are actually sebum plugs loosening up and coming out (yuck!).

•••

After using this for a few weeks, I’ve already noticed an improvement in my skin’s overall texture and clarity — fewer little bumps and blackheads. I think incorporating this into my regimen has made my other skin care steps work much more effectively, as it cleanses my skin more deeply. I’ve even grown to enjoy the process of applying the oil to my face — at the end of the day it feels quite relaxing and therapeutic — no longer gross!

Please note that not all oils work the same way for everyone, so I can’t insist that all people will love this. Olive oil can be extremely comedogenic to some people, so always test a small area first. There are a number of oil cleansers that also contain mineral oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, etc., so it’s a matter of finding what your skin works well with. My skin seems to like the olive oil, and I plan on sticking with it. If you have a similar skin type to me, this may be worth a try.

What do you think of oil-based cleansers? Have you tried DHC’s? What did you think?

Review | Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque

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My oily, acne-prone skin loves sulfur. I used to use the ProActiv Refining Mask, which has 6% sulfur, and I really enjoyed it as a spot-treatment and a bi-weekly mask treatment. This particular mask from Peter Thomas Roth contains 10% sulfur. The ProActiv mask is a little harder to find and I found this one to be more readily available. It is a pricey mask, but I managed to find the full 5 oz. tub on Amazon with a discount (free Prime shipping as well), so it may help to shop around.

ptr_tsm_boxINGREDIENTS: Precipitated Sulfur U.S.P. 10%, water, bentonite, kaolin, propylene glycol, talc, glycerin, aloe barbadensis leaf, zinc oxide, polysorbate-20, titanium dioxide, carbomer, fragrance, sodium hydroxide, diazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, propylparaben
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The consistency is a little bit thinner and more moist than ProActiv’s mask (perhaps due to the aloe), so it’s easier for me to spread. It has a little bit of a grayish color, and it smells mostly of clay and sulfur. I started using this mask after getting a sudden bout of stress/hormone -related acne along my jawline, nose, mouth and chin. Using this at least two or three times a week over the course of a few weeks has helped my skin calm down. I find that it’s even a bit less drying than the Proactiv mask.

The sulfur smell does linger, even after rinsing. I have only been using this at night. If you decide to use this in the morning, you may want to shower afterwards to get rid of any traces of odor. It can be a little bit difficult to rinse off completely, especially if applied in a thick layer, so keep a wet washcloth handy.

Those with normal to dry complexions may find this a little bit too drying if used more than once per week. Even though I’m oily, I still have to apply moisturizer after using this.

This works pretty well as a spot treatment too. Big, angry pimples won’t completely vanish overnight with this, but over the course of a few days, the redness and swelling have noticeably reduced. My skin looks very clean, soft and matte afterwards. I haven’t noticed any irritation from repeated use.

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I recommend this mask more for those with oily, acne-prone skin like me. It is expensive, but if I can manage to keep finding it at a cheaper price, I would repurchase this. A little bit of product goes a long way and the generous 5 oz. tub should last me at least a couple of months. I found it to be effective in calming my sudden breakouts and absorbing excess oil.

Have you tried either of PTR’s sulfur masks? What did you think?

Review | Uguisu Poo Uguisu No Fun Illuminating Mask

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Warning: This post probably isn’t for the squeamish.

I’m familiar with how Japanese geisha began incorporating nightingale droppings into their beauty regimen centuries ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I found that “bird poop facials” are actually quite popular in our modern beauty culture.

A high-end spa in New York City has popularized the practice with what they call their “Geisha Facial;” it uses dehydrated Japanese nightingale feces, or uguisu no fun, as the star ingredient. Its rich enzyme content is supposed to gently and thoroughly cleanse, exfoliate, brighten and clarify the skin. Filled with curiosity (and maybe just a touch of horror?) I did some more research.

The contemporary version of the poopy product is harvested from bush warblers, or Japanese nightingales. The droppings are dried under the sun for a couple of weeks, sanitized under an ultraviolet light (any ammonia, uric acid, and bacteria is removed), and then pulverized into a powder.

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I bought this 30 gram bottle from a Japanese shop called Uguisu Poo (you can read more about their manufacturing process here). They have a few different versions of the mask that cater to specific skin care needs; I chose the “Illuminating” version — it did not contain any additional ingredients other than the droppings. The powder is pale yellow in color and, surprisingly, has no noticeable scent. So far so good!

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Instructions are very simple and straightforward. To make the mask, I combined 1/2 tsp. (a whole teaspoon was a bit too much for me) of the powder with a little bit of warm water to form a paste (add water little by little — it can get too runny very easily). I spread the mixture evenly over clean, dry skin and let it dry for 10-15 minutes. Finally, I rinsed it clean with warm water. Since the mask hardens when it dries, I expected my skin to feel dry and tight after use, much like how it feels after a clay mask. Surprisingly, my face didn’t feel dry at all — it actually felt hydrated. People with oily skin may even prefer to skip regular moisturizer after use.It definitely feels gentler than clay masks I’ve tried. I’d also recommend using a toner afterwards, to get every last bit of residue off.

After using this mask several times over the course of about a month, I did notice an overall improvement in my skin’s tone and texture. I had some redness around my mouth and nose from healing and existing breakouts and the mask helped reduce some of the inflammation and irritation. My skin is less red. It also feels and looks softer and more even. It seemed to help with lightening red marks from newer, mild breakouts as well. Nothing miraculous, but still a noticeable improvement. It did not do much to combat active acne, however. If you’re looking for a mask to heal pimples, this probably won’t be enough for that. You might be better off with a regular clay mask.

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I think this mask would be ideal for most skin types, even those with mildly dry skin. It’s a nice hydrating and exfoliating mask, and it’s quite gentle too. Unless you intend to use it daily, I don’t think an application once or twice a week would be enough to get rid of acne completely, but it is a nice supplement to an anti-acne skin care routine. If you want something that’s different from your standard clay masks, or if you’re into unconventional and/or natural beauty products and want to try something new, I’d recommend this. Would you ever give uguisu no fun a try?