Tag Archives: japanese skincare

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Dr.Ci:Labo Aqua-Collagen-Gel Enrich-Lift-Ex Review

Seeing “Dr.” in the name of a skincare product usually kills any interest I have in it. Not only is the product guaranteed to lack any skincaretainment value but I also don’t like it when brands pander to “serious skincare” seekers. There have been two exceptions to this rule: Dr. Jart, which pretty consistently churns out products that I like, and Dr.Ci:Labo, who’s MO of throwing every buzzy skin ingredient in their products makes me willing to overlook their name and their love of abusing punctuation.

Today we are going to look at one of their more popular products, the Aqua-Collagen-Gel Enrich-Lift-EX.

Product Name
Dr.Ci:Labo Aqua-Collagen-Gel Enrich-Lift-EX / ドクターシーラボ アクアコラーゲンゲルエンリッチリフトEX  Continue reading

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Keshimin Sealing Milk Review

There are certain products, whether due to packaging, branding, or hype, generate a lot of excitement. This is not one of those. However, I have a lot of lotions. If you check my empties posts, you’ll notice I rarely finish any, yet this bottle is nearly empty and I’m a little sad to see it go. I guess this means I liked using this a lot more than I’ve been conscious of and so I felt compelled to properly review it.

Product Name
The Japanese name is 薬用ケシミン密封乳液. I’ve seen it referred to as Keshimin Sealing Milk and Milky Lotion.  Continue reading

Astalift Cleansing Oil review

Astalift Cleansing Oil Review

For the longest time, all I wanted was a cleansing oil that worked. Something that removed all my makeup, didn’t leave any residue on my face, and didn’t break me out. After a comically long struggle, I found one, and I still think it’s the best no-nonsense, super functional, great value, oil cleanser out there.

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But as they say, if you give your mouse a cookie, she’s going to ask for an even fancier oil cleanser that smells like rose red tea and has the same golden orange color as salmon caviar, which is what this cleanser is.

Product Name
Fujifilm Astalift Cleansing Oil Continue reading

fancl cleansing oil earth recipe waterful sun gel glossier milky jelly cleanser

August & September Empties

My skin changes drastically when Autumn and Winter roll around, so I have been frantically trying to finish up some of my items that are better suited for summer. Here are my empties from September and October!

Empties I Would Repurchase / Have Repurchased

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Benton Honest TT MistFull review here. This is my third tube of this mist and I already have 3 backups in my stash. I spray it at least twice a day on the around my nose and mouth, which is very prone to redness. It’s really good at calming and preventing irritation for me. Continue reading

mochitto awadate irazu face wash

Mochitto Mochi Mochi Awadate-Irazu Face Wash Without Bubbling Review

A few years ago, I worked in a building that had a newly open self-serve frozen yogurt shop on its ground floor. One of my coworkers and I figured out quickly that while the yogurt itself was terrible, there were other benefits to be had and so, in the afternoon, two or three times a week, we would make our way to the shop. She would get a cup and fill up with gummy bears and I would do the same but with mochi and cheesecake chunks.

The moral of that story is I freaking LOVE mochi. I love mochi filled with azuki beans, I love mochi covered in teriyaki sauce, I love mochi filled with ice cream, and baked mochi by itself!

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Taken at Mochi Cream in Torrance, aka my main mochi dealer. I’m partial to the Raspberry Mille Feuille flavor, but honestly they are all magical.

So naturally, I had to have this mochi mochi cleanser the minute I laid my eyes on it. Luckily, it’s actually a really good cleanser because of course it is! Mochi would never fail me like that. All hail mochi! Continue reading

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Muji Sensitive Skin Cleansing Oil

I used to live with a girl who was manically obsessed with cleansiness and organization and who, following a trip to Italy, came back with a suitcase full of not only cashmere tights and Schoko-Bons, but also pens, containers, and storage tools she had purchased from a “Japanese, brand-less store” called Muji. This was my first introduction to Muji, a few years before Muji opened their first US flagship store in SF, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

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Muji is what I want to be when I grow up. I’m totally convinced that by buying their functional yet minimalist goodies, I will somehow turn into someone who has all her shit together in the most tasteful manner. Yet, it’s taken me years to finally give their skincare line I try. I guess because my skin is so problematic, I was worried Muji’s products would prove ill-suited for my skin, and I’d have to face the fact that Muji is less perfect than I had built it up to be in my head.

A few months ago, I spotted this cleansing oil while shopping for furniture, considered how unhappy I was with the cleanser I was then using, and figured why not? The rest is, as they say, history.

At a Glance

MUJI OIL CLEANSING (SENSITIVE SKIN SERIES)
Size: 200ML, but also available in travel size (50ml) and extra large (400ml)
Price: $15.50 at Muji stores and online.
Packaging: Transparent, plastic pump bottle
Fragrance: Smells like olive oil
Color: Pale yellow
Texture: Thick, viscous oil

IMG_0749INGREDIENTS
UPDATE: There are multiple versions of the sensitive skin cleansing oil and Muji makes it extremely difficult and confusing to figure out which is which. Read more here.
Acne Triggers & Irritants
: Olive oil (2), Octyl Palmitate (4), Sorbitan Oleate (3), Tocopherol (2), and Butylene Glycol (1) flagged as acne triggers; Octyl Palmitate (1) and Tocopherol (2) are potential irritants
Full Ingredients: Olive Oil, Octyl Palmitate, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Polysorbate, Sorbitan Oleate, Water, Pentylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Glycosyl Trehalose, Butylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Glycerin, Polyquaternium-51, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Purslane (Portulaca Olearcea) Extract

Ingredients Overview

Somewhat unfortunately, this cleansing oil is a great example of how ingredients are only one variable in how well (or poorly) a product performs. At first glance, there are two major issues with the ingredients of this oil.

First, this cleansing oil contains quite a few acne triggers as identified by cosdna. Secondly, the main ingredient is olive oil, which despite the fact that it is all natural and edible, has somewhat of a challenged reputation in skincare. In particular, this study comparing the topical effects of olive oil and sunflower oil demonstrate that 4 weeks of applying olive oil topically caused a significant reduction in stratum corneum integrity and induced mild erythema in volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis.

And so, at first glance, we seem to have an oil that may cause/exacerbate acne and/or damage skin’s natural barrier. Yet, as someone with super dry, acneic, easily inflammed, and occassionally sensitive skin, I have not experienced any issues with this oil on either the acne or irritation front. I think there are two important thing to keep in mind when looking over these ingredients: Cosdna is NOT a perfect guide – I think I’ve mentioned before that my two main acne triggers both have a rating of 0 – and also in cleansers the effects of constituent ingredients are diminished because the product does not stay on your skin for long enough to do much of anything. If you have very acne-prone skin (and even if you don’t because there’s no telling what your skin might react to), patch test thoroughly and introduce this into your routine carefully. But as a whole, I think this is a fantastic oil, despite its ingredients.

Performance

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Pic 1: hand with foundation, 2 types of eyeliner, lip crayon, and a bunch of eyeshadows. Pic 2: hand with makeup and a few drops of cleansing oil. Pic 3: oil cleansing has dissolved all makeup except a bit of eyeliner. Pic 4: hand after oil has been rinsed off. Notice the trace amounts of eyeliner from pic 3 has fully come off.

All I want from oil cleansers is for them to remove makeup thoroughly and rinse off cleanly without doing something bad to my skin, which sounds simple enough, right? The five cleansing oils I’ve tried prior to this one would either cause my skin to breakout, not remove makeup fully, leave behind cleanser residue after rinsing, or dry my skin out. By the time I had gotten around to trying this oil, my expectations for oil cleansers were basically nonexistent – if it didn’t break me out, I could live with it.

Happily, the Muji Gods are merciful and kind! This oil not only checks all of my requirements, but exceeds them!

Makeup comes off with remarkable ease. I don’t wear eyeliner frequently, but when I do I require one that can withstand my constant eye rubbing, which means they tend to be difficult to remove. The Muji oil can get all my eyeliner off with the gentlest of rubs, no tugging required!

Texturally, this oil does not feel like any other cleansing oil I’ve tried. It is thick and behaves and feels almost as a thick gel might behave. If you frequently struggle with oil dripping on your floors, running into your eyes, or just overall not staying in place, you must try this oil. It’s not so thick that it’s hard to apply – I actually use less of this oil than I do with most cleansing oils I’ve used if that is any indication – but once you’ve spread it around your face, it stays put pretty well.

Not only does this oil washes off fully, without leaving a trace of residue, and does so in such a lovely manner. Upon contact with water, this oil seems to BLOOM, becoming a bit thicker and creamier at first before giving way to a thinner milky, liquid texture. The whole experience of cleansing with this oil, from beginning to end, feels very luxurious!

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The area of the (gross looking) oil X makeup mixture that is whitish is where it has come in contact with water. As mentioned, this oil turns milky when it emulsifies.

My only complaint with this oil is that it smells a bit like olive oil. I don’t mind the smell, but I also don’t love it, and I can’t help feeling this oil deserves to smell as remarkable as it performs. Other than this, this oil would be as close to reaching holy grail status as anything else I’ve ever tried. If you’ve read my blog a lot, you may have noticed I never use the phrase Holy Grail because to me, something labelled as such needs to be so perfect and impossible to improve upon that I declare my undying loyalty to it. I’m not quite there with this oil. There are two other cleansing oils I have my eye on before I’m willing to settle on this category, but it’s very, very close to that point.

The Takeaway

I love this oil. It’s a easy and pleasant to use cleansing oil that does everything a cleansing oil should.

Benton Honest TT Mist (3)


Disclaimer: Product purchased by me. No affiliate links are used.

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Quality 1st All in One Sheet Mask Review

Like most other people, every January I always feel the desire to be an overall better person. As it relates to my skincare hobby, I’ve resolved to be a more conscientious and less wasteful consumer. The main goal for the first part of this year is to get my stash of products down to a manageable quantity, and to that end I am trying to focus on finishing products I like before buying new ones. You might even see a few empties posts!

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Also in the spirit of reducing waste, I’m trying to streamline my sheet mask collection. I think I’ve come to the somewhat sad realization that sheet masks for me are an means to an end – I love how plump and hydrated my skin looks with regular sheet mask usage but I don’t feel like I enjoy them in a proper, treat yo’self manner. I love seeing instagram posts of the prettiest, silkiest trendiest masks, but I can’t help but feel they would be wasted on me. More appropriate for my needs, I think, are Japanese bulk sheet masks, the “low-cost airline,” as RatzillaCosme puts it, of sheet masks. First on my list of bulk sheet masks to try are these Cosme Award winning masks from Quality 1st.

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At a Glance

QUALITY 1ST ALL IN ONE SHEET MASK
Size: 105g, 7 masks
Price: $5 at Image Beauty Store and Imomoko.
Packaging: All masks in one resealable, plastic bag container
Fragrance: Mild, naturey scent. I’m not a fan of the scent, but it is faint and disperses almost immediately.
Sheet Material: This mask is made out of a thick, sturdy cotton. It’s a little stiff, but conforms to the shape of my face really well.

INGREDIENTS
FullSizeRender-2Acne Triggers & Irritants: Roman Chamomile Flower Extract (2) and Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (1) flagged as potential acne triggers.
Full Ingredients:

水、BG、DPG、グリセリン、リン酸アスコルビルMg、加水分解シルク、白金、ヒアルロン酸Na、サクシニルアテロコラーゲン、クレマティス葉エキス、スギナエキス、ヒバマタエキス、セイヨウキズタ葉/茎エキス、セイヨウナツユキソウ花エキス、水添レシチン、ダイズステロール、セラミド3、ローマカミツレ花エキス、トウキンセンカ花エキス、ヤグルマギク花エキス、カミツレ花エキス、セイヨウオトギリソウ花/葉/茎エキス、フユボダイジュ花エキス、ビルベリーエキス、サトウキビエキス、サトウカエデ樹液、オレンジエキス、レモンエキス、水溶性コラーゲン、アロエベラ葉エキス、クロレラエキス、カッコンエキス、ヒトオリゴペプチド-1、ポリソルベート80、PEG-60水添ヒマシ油、キサンタンガム、マンニトール、ダマスクバラ花油、ニオイテンジクアオイ油、パルマローザ油、ラベンダー油、グレープフルーツ果皮油、ローズマリー油
Water, Butylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydrolyzed Silk Protein, Platinum Powder, Sodium Hyaluronate, Succinoyl Atelocollagen, Clematis Vitalba Leaf Extract, Equisetum Hyemale Extract, Bladderwrack Extract, Hedera Helix Leaf / Stem Extract, Spiraea Ulmaria Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Soybean Extract, Ceramide 3, Roman Chamomile Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Hypericum Perforatum Flowers / Leaves / Stem Extract, Tilia Cordata Flower Extract, Bilberry Extract, Sugar Cane Extract, Sugar Maple Sap, Orange Extracts, Lemon, Soluble Collagen, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Chlorella Vulgaris Extract, Saxifraga Extract, Chtoligopeptide-1, Polysorbate 80, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Xanthan Gum, Mannitol, Damask Rose Flower Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Oil, Palmarosa Oil, Lavender Oil, Grapefruit Peel Oil, Rosemary Oil

Performance

These are definitely budget sheet masks. Because there are 7 masks packaged together in one pouch, there is less essence to go around. As a result, each of these masks only last about half an hour on my skin, which is significantly shorter than the individually packaged cotton masks I’m used to (which usually last an hour +) and a bit shorter than silk sheet masks (which last about 45 minutes).

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What the masks look like folded up in the pouch.

If you can get over that hurdle, these masks are actually quite nice. The material is thick and a little stiff, but conforms to the shape of my face surprisingly well. The flap that goes on my chin refuses to sit still, but every other part of it stays firmly put once on. I was wearing one of these masks earlier this week while cleaning and doing laundry, and it stayed glued to my face. I feel like I could’ve done an entire Olympic gymnast routine and the mask wouldn’t have budged!

My two pet peeves when it comes to sheet masks are fragrance and residual stickiness. These masks avoid both of these pitfalls. These masks are not entirely scent free- when I first remove them from the pouch they have a mild, natural-type herby/floral scent that I’m not a fan of, but the smell dissipates as soon as the mask is unfolded and once on my face, I really don’t notice the scent. Also, when I remove these masks, my face feels clean. There is no stickiness or tackiness, and there is no residual product. I can continue with my skincare routine without having to mist and pat at my skin, waiting for the mask essence to absorb.

The Takeaway

There are 7 masks in a pouch and I used them all up in a week. After which, I can totally understand why these masks are so popular and so highly ranked in Japan. They are not the most pampering masks in the world by any measure, but if you’re just trying to get your daily sheet mask in to maintain your skin, these sheet masks are one of the easiest, least annoying ways to do so. Their ability to stay put on my face and their lack of scent means I can wear these while doing household chores and forget that it’s even on my face. The lack of stickiness and quick dry time makes them a very low time / effort commitment mask. As for effects on my skin, they’re pretty middle of the road, maybe even above average. Given how cheap these are, I’d say that’s pretty good!

Benton Honest TT Mist (2)


Disclaimer: I purchased these. There are no affiliate links. 

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Spotlight on Horse Oil!

It seems like every couple of months, a new oil emerges as the new darling ingredient of beauty editors and natural-minded skincare folk everywhere. Coconut oil kicked off this trend in the late 2000’s, I think, and since then we’ve seen argan, rosehip oil, grapeseed oil, seabuckthorn oil, and even dilo oil being championed as the next do-it-all oil. My personal favorite skincare oil, which has been popular in Japan for years and is growing in popularity in Korea, will sadly never be popular in the States but that doesn’t mean I can’t rave about it here! Today’s post is entirely dedicated to my winter skincare MVP, horse oil!

First Things First. Am I Killing Horses?

This is probably the first question that pops into everyone’s head, for good reason. The short answer is no, but the oil does come from dead horses.

Allow me to explain. Horses are killed for their meat, which is something many Americans probably aren’t aware of. Horse meat is consumed in Belgium, Japan, Kazakhstan, Italy, and (many) other countries. As a consequence of processing horses, there is a good amount of horse fat that is produced as a byproduct. Initially, this residual horse fat became a cheaper alternative to lard consumed by the poorer classes. At some point, cosmetic companies started buying it up.

If you think about it, horse oil as a skincare ingredient couldn’t really be feasible unless it’s a byproduct of meat production. Horses have very little fat. Pound for pound, they have about 40% as much fat as cows. Coupled with the fact that horses are rather expensive animals to raise, horse oil would be astronomically expensive if horses were killed for their fat. If your desire is to not contribute to the death of horses, you can rest easy. However, if you were hoping horse oil was something like lanolin (which extracted from wool without harming sheep), you may want to skip this ingredient.

As a former (albeit short-lived) vegan and someone who makes a big deal about eating grass fed and/or free range dairy and meats whenever possible, I strangely have zero qualms about using horse oil. My childhood best friend was an equestrian and I’ve ridden horses a few times in my life, but I don’t seem to ever have developed any emotional ties to them. That said, I understand I am likely in the minority here, at last amongst Americans. However, because it is a byproduct, the use of horse oil in skincare is actually reducing the amount of potential horse being wasted. That counts for something, right?

What is Special About Horse Oil

The amount of scientific information about horse oil’s effect on skin is (understandably) limited, but even so there are a few apparent reasons why horse oil is worth paying attention to. Horse oil, by reputation, is known to be very similar to human sebum so I set out to understand why.

Luckily, I was able to find a few research papers comparing the composition of fats of horses to fats of other animals, including humans. One observation that stood out and was pretty consistent through the different papers is that horse oil is comparatively low in palmitic acid and stearic acid content while being comparatively high in linolenic acid content

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Horse and Man are the bottom two rows. The saturated acids composition is fairly similar. Source.

Palmitic acid is what excess carbohydrates are converted to in the body. It is the most common saturated fatty acid, followed closely by stearic acid. Horses are unique in that their fat contains far less of these types of fatty acids than other livestock animals. In this way, horse fat is similar to human fat, which also contains relatively small amounts of palmitic acid and stearic acid. Interestingly however, horses actually contain even less than humans.

The second standout observation about horse fat, particularly from pasture-fed horses, contains a notable amount of linolenic acid. By comparison, cows and sheep contain little to none. This is pretty surprising because linolenic acid is actually frequently found in plants and nuts! There are two types: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid more commonly associated with flax seed and walnut than barn animals, and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 usually associated with hemp, borage seed, and evening primrose oil. Linolenic acid is an awesome skin conditioning and skin communicating agent and is thought to have barrier repairing and anti-inflammatory properties. One source postulates that although the mechanisms of action of gamma-linolenic acid are only partly understood, GLA could influence epidermal barrier function, modulate the metabolism of eicosanoid (a pro-inflammatory hormone), or modulate cell signaling. Another source demonstrates both linoleic acid and linolenic acid can reduce UVB-induced skin injury in mice. 

In addition, I was actually able to dig up some research that directly investigates the effects of topical horse oil on skin. I could only find the abstracts, so the sample size and statistical robustness of these findings are unknown, but the results are promising. This study demonstrates horse oil exerts an anti-bacterial effect on P.acnes and S. aureus and increases expression of type I collagen in human skin fibroblasts. Another study demonstrates horse oil has anti-inflammatory effects and reduces erythema. I definitely would not recommend anyone use horse oil as their main source of acne or anti-inflammatory treatment, but it’s nice to think that in addition to being an awesome moisturizing ingredient, horse oil might have some other skin benefits too!

Personally, my love for horse oil has less to do with science (which I didn’t know anything about until after I had been using horse oil products for awhile to be honest) and more to do with the way it way it easily and seamlessly sinks into my skin. I have a long history of trying to force allegedly dry-skin-appropriate creams (usually very heavy ones) and facial oils to work on my skin. Most of these experiences end with my face looking or feeling like an oil slick while still being as dry as ever.

Horse oil, by contrast, manages to thoroughly moisturize my lizard dry skin without feeling heavy at all. The first couple of times I’ve experienced it, I literally could not believe it. It does exactly what I’ve always hoped moisturizers would do! Even now I am still sometimes surprised at how light and natural horse oil feels. It’s the most effective and pleasant occlusive agent I’ve used!


How to Incorporate Horse Oil Products into your Routine

So now that you know all about horse oil, you may be wondering how to start incorporating it into your routine. To be transparent, these days I mostly just use pure horse oil. It’s fantastic to use directly on my skin and also great for mixing into any number of other products. However, it took months of experimenting with other horse oil containing products before I was comfortable doing so.

The guide below is designed to help you determine what products may be good ones to start with, depending on how comfortable you are with the idea of using horse oil.

For the Horse Oil Skeptics:

Horse Sheet Masks!

This is a great low-commitment way to try a product with horse oil. I’ve tried quite a few, some of which I’ve liked better than others. The ones above all do a good job of moisturizing my skin (if I slap one on at night, my skin is almost guaranteed to be bouncy and soft the next day!) and are blissfully un-sticky. I’ve been developing and deeper and deeper aversion to anything sticky as of late, and these masks have been a great way to get my sheet masks in free of stickiness! Of these, my absolute favorite is the Ciracle From Jeju Mayu anti-aging mask, followed by the Guerisson 9Complex hydrogel. I’ve also been using quite a few Sinma Skin Revitalizing Masks and no:hj Aqua Soothing Mask Pack with Horse Fat, just because I have them, but I likely will not reorder these. Sinma is made of a silky material but does not fit my face very well. I purchased the no:hj masks because the packaging seemed so elegant but the masks have a strange, play-doh like scent.

The Yeon Mayu 8 Cream

The Yeon Mayou8 Multi Care Cream is a body cream that smells a bit aggressively like orange flavored PEZ candy (which would be a huge problem if this were a face product but is tolerable as a body product) and contains 3% horse oil. This is a good occlusive but not a great hydrator, so I find it to be most effective if I use it immediately after showering. When I do, it glides on easily, without the annoying tug that some lotions have, and leaves my skin buttery and soft.

Honorable Mentions

Three other awesome horse products are the Sungwon Maeux CreamGuerisson 9 Complex Essence, and Guerisson 9Complex Cream.

The Horse Oil Overachiever

Spa Cream

You know how there are tons of those no-nonsense serums on amazon all with the title “Best Anti-Aging Product EVER!!!” and contain every superstar ingredient under the sun? I feel like this Reishi Shop Spa Cream is the Japanese/Rakuten equivalent but instead of Vit C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid, it’s full of Reishi and Cordyceps mushroom extract, Horse oil, Spa Water, Astaxanthin, and a mishmash of other ingredients. This was a totally random find but turned out to be really interesting! This cream is very light and soft, but has the texture of something between a gel and a balm. It’s bizarre but kind of awesome! When I start rubbing it into my skin, water droplets seem to emerge out of no where. It’s really fun to use and because it is both a great occlusive but also full of hydration, one of my go-to products on days I am in a rush and trying to consolidate my routine into as few steps as possible. A little bit goes a long way!

For Horse Oil Purists

Sonbahyu 100% Horse Oil

I had known for awhile that I wanted to try an 100% horse oil product but was scared. Apparently, some of the lower quality products can smell like a barnyard, which I did NOT want to deal with! Sonbahyu seemed like a safe bet because their products are so prevalent on Rakuten and overwhelmingly positively reviewed. As it turns out, this oil is 100% scent free- it smells gloriously like nothing!

I use this horse oil both on my face and body. On my face, I will either use it by itself, or I will mix it into other creams. Even adding a tiny amount to my other moisturizers makes that moisturizer so much better! I actually have a ton of creams that I do not frequently use because I don’t like the way they feel on my skin, but with this Sonbahyu horse oil, I’ve been able to salvage quite a few of them!

When I use this oil directly on my face, I sometimes make the mistake of applying too much (a little bit goes a long, long way). When this happens, I am shocked at how light and breathable this oil feels. Even when my face looks like greasy, it doesn’t feel that way. And over time, my skin manages to absorb all of the horse oil. After application, my skin is soft, pliable, smooth, and unrecognizably not-dry and stays that way for hours.  I’m in LOVE with this oil and never want to be without it! ❤


What do you guys think? Have any of you tried horse oil? Also, if I’ve convinced any of you to give horse oil a try, do let me know how it goes!

Also, you can also see my other ingredient spotlight on ginseng here. There will be more to come!


Disclosures: All products mentioned here were purchased by me. This post contains affiliate links. See here for my full disclosure policy.

canmake mermaid uv gel review

Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV SPF50+ PA++++ Review

Sometimes, skincare requires tradeoffs. For example, despite my having dry skin, pretty much all the sunscreens I use smell like rubbing alcohol due to their high alcohol content. This type of alcohol may be drying but it also allows the sunscreens to absorb with fantastic speed and I just don’t have enough free time in the mornings to deal with slow drying sunscreens.

And so the fact that I’ve been using this particular alcohol-free UV gel in the mornings regularly is a testament in itself to how great it is. On days when my skin feels particularly dry, I even find myself reaching for this sunscreen over my beloved Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel!

Appearance and Packaging

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This sunscreen comes in a shiny silver tube bedazzled with images of shells, starfish, coral and other ocean things. Canmake packaging can sometimes look like little-girl-toy-makeup, but I actually really like what they did with the design of this sunscreen!

canmake mermaid skin gel vs sunkiller

Canmake on the left, Sunkiller Perfect Strong Essence (right).

The tube is smaller than I’m used to – each tube comes with 40ml of product. For comparison, Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence and Sunkiller Perfect Watery Essence, which come in similar tube formats, come with 50ml.

Even though this sunscreen is dubbed a gel, from my experience it is more similar in texture to Japanese essence-type sunscreens. Essence type sunscreens usually have a buttery-yet-light creamy texture (which this sunscreen has) whereas gel-type sunscreens tend to be more fluid. This Canmake sunscreen is indeed watery, but it is nowhere near as runny as the gels that I have used.

Performance

**If you’re curious about sunscreen ratings, safety, FDA approvals, ingredients, or the reason Asian sunscreens (Japanese in particular) are so much better than the ones available in the US, see here and here**

This sunscreen is appropriate for every day usage. It is not water, sweat, or sebum resistant so if you are planning on doing strenuous physical activity of spending an extended amount of time outdoors, you may want to find another sunscreen.

canmake sunscreen swatch

The texture of this sunscreen is awesome! Out of the tube, the sunscreen has a very luxurious texture. With even the smallest amount of patting, the creamy texture gives way to a watery substance that is easy to apply and extremely moisturizing. This sunscreen does take longer to dry due to the lack of alcohol, but is not as slow as some other alcohol-free sunscreens, and fortunately there is no stickiness at all. It is also one of the better makeup-primer sunscreens that I’ve used. I am very generous with my sunscreen application and sometimes run into issues with the sunscreen pilling when I apply makeover over it, but I have not yet run into issues with this sunscreen.

This sunscreen does not ever feel heavy. It does make my face a little shiny, but in a dewy sort of way and not a socially-inapprorpiate sort of way. Over time, this shine fades and if you wear makeup, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

The ingredients of this sunscreen are as follows. Sunscreen filters are underlined.

Water, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (aka Octinoxate) , butylene glycol, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl benzoate (aka Uvinal A Plus), zinc oxide, methylheptyl ester of lauric acid, titanium dioxide, dimethicone, bis ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (aka Tinosorb S), polymethylsilsesquioxane, cyclopentasiloxane, sodium hydroxyethyl acrylate / acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer diisostearyl malate, hydroxide Al, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, stearic acid, phenoxyethanol, polyglyceryl-3 polydimethylsiloxiethyl dimethicone, polyhydroxystearyl acid, jojoba ester, xanthan gum, arginine, hyaluronic acid, alpha-glucan, phytic acid, saxifraga sarmentosa extract, glucosylceramide, cherry leaf extract, job’s tears seed extract, morus alba root extract, onethera biennis seed extract, silver oxide, Queen of the Meadow flower extract, bilberry leaf extract, artichoke leaf extract

I always try to ensure that the sunscreen filters will protect against UVA rays. Luckily, this sunscreen includes zinc oxide and Tinosorb S which cover the entire UVA spectrum!

The Takeaway

Moisturizing, very cosmetically elegant sunscreen. My only real gripe with it is that it takes a long time to dry, but that’s pretty much unavoidable without alcohol in the formula.

Anna over at My Asian Skincare Story (which has TONS of great sunscreen reviews) was kind enough to ship this to me from Japan. It is also available on Rakuten (through forwarding service only) or eBay.

To see other sunscreens I’ve reviewed, see here.

canmake

Disclosure: Product paid for by me. Affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.

DHC Salicylic

DHC Salicylic Face Milk Review also a Reexamination of Salicylic Acid’s Effective pH Range

WHY I BOUGHT IT

Remember my review on Chica y Chico’s Beta Salic 2.0? Well (knocks on wood), since I started using it, I have not had a single recurrence of cystic acne. I do still get closed comedones, but even those are less frequent. Needless to say, BHAs are totally my jam right now. They’re the security blanket ingredient of my skincare routine and my second deserted-island skincare essential, after sunscreen of course. The reason I wanted to swap out Beta Salic 2.0 with something new? I wanted something STRONGER. DHC Salicylic Face Milk ReviewI also wanted something without glycolic acid. I’m currently using a lactic acid toner, which has been a bit harsh recently, and I thought removing glycolic acid, even in small quantities, may help.

But back to salicylic acid. Products in Korea are limited to containing only .5% salicylic acid. A lot of brands deal with this restriction by using betaine salicylate, a mild complex of salicylic acid, instead. This means to get my grabby hands on stronger BHA products out there, I have to look outside Korea. I have had my eye on this salicylic face milk from DHC for some time and since I was running out of BS2.0, finally decided to order it!

WHERE I PURCHASED IT

I bought this as part of a Rakuten haul. It is also available in the states with a markup on DHC’s website or on Amazon. I cannot actually confirm with 100% certainty that the Japanese version and the US version are the same. Japan does not require products to label active ingredients (this goes with vitamin C products and sunscreen active ingredients as well) and the US DHC customer service team was pretty much worthless when I repeatedly asked, sending me the link to http://www.dhc.co.jp/‎ three times. However, the ingredient lists are identical so chances are good that the two are and for the purposes of this review I am going to assume they are.

APPEARANCE

Comes in a small, flat, blue tube with a small spout. DHC Salicylic Face Milk The product itself has a light cream texture. Its thinner than beta salic 2.0, but not quite what I would consider milky.

PERFORMANCE

There are two major differences between this cream and beta salic 2.0: First of all, I mentioned that with beta salic 2.0, I only experienced minimal purging. With this face milk? Holy starfish! I had zits erupting on my face non-stop for about a week.

On one hand, I’m happy this stuff is working. On the other hand, I kept having to duck into the bathroom at work to make sure I didn’t have to reapply my makeup (again) to cover up the warzone that was my face. Thankfully, this purging calmed down greatly after the first couple of days and stopped altogether by the end of the second week.

The second difference is that there is a noticeable anti-inflammatory effect with this cream that I did not experience with beta salic 2.0. Minutes after applying this, my problem areas were noticeably less red.

dhc antiinflammatory

Photo on left taken immediately before applying DHC SFM. Photo on right taken 10 minutes after applying. There is obviously still a lot of redness in the right photo, but notice how the pinkness emanating from the problem spots is reduced.

I was concerned my dry skin would not be able to handle the increased BHA concentration, but I had no issues whatsoever! I think this is partly due to DHC SFM being well formulated and partially due to the fact I’ve been using a BHA (albiet a mild one) for more than two months before using this. Here are the ingredients, with cosdna acne triggers and irritants thusly indicated:

AQUA, BUTYLENE GLYCOL, CETYL ETHYLHEXANOATE, SORBITAN STEARATE, CETEARYL ALCOHOL, GLYCERYL STEARATE, PEG-60 HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL, CYCLOPENTASILOXANE, PPG-12/SMDI COPOLYMER, SALICYLIC ACID, TRIETHANOLAMINE, PHENOXYETHANOL, SUCROSE COCOATE, CETEARETH-20, VITIS VINIFERA (GRAPE) SEED OIL, SCLEROTIUM GUM, ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS (ROSEMARY) LEAF OIL, DIMETHICONE, XANTHAN GUM, PANTHENOL, CAMELLIA SINENSIS LEAF EXTRACT, ROYAL JELLY EXTRACT, SCUTELLARIA BAICALENSIS ROOT EXTRACT, PERILLA OCYMOIDES LEAF EXTRACT, HOUTTUYNIA CORDATA EXTRACT, ALOE BARBADENSIS LEAF EXTRACT, GLYCINE SOJA (SOYBEAN) SEED EXTRACT

This is when things start to get interesting. After a month of using this milk, I finally got my hands on some pH testing strips. This item has a purported pH of 3.8 but the pH strips I have were telling a different story.

dhc salicylic face milk review ph test

Left most square suggests pH is around 5. Second from the left square suggests pH is around 4. Let’s just say 4.5?

Granted, these pH strips are not the most reliable way to measure pH, but I tested this cream a few times and consistently got a reading suggesting the pH is around 4.5. For a BHA, a pH of 4.5 is really high.

Screenshot from The Journal of Experimental Medicine, Volume 36. source

Screenshot from The Journal of Experimental Medicine, Volume 36. At a pH of 4.5, less than 5% of salicylic acid will be in free salicylate acid form, which is the form required to exfoliate skin. source

From everything I understood about BHAs, this product should not be exfoliating my skin in any significant way. Yet, the effects I was seeing with this product, particularly the purging, are difficult to attribute to anything else. This lead to some frantic googling and pubmed searching to find possible explanations, of which I have three!

Possible explanation #1:

There is one study that caught my eye (that RatzillaCosme actually tweeted about but I’m lame and not on twitter so I didn’t see it until now):

Salicylic acid at close to neutral pH (mostly in its neutralized form as salicylate, pH 6.50) exerted a corneodesmolytic activity as good as that of salicylic acid in an acidic vehicle (pH 3.12) after only two days of application… In conclusion, neutralized salicylic acid at a 1% concentration is a suitable exfoliant agent for subjects with sensitive skin.

For those of you who don’t know what corneodesmolytic activity is (because I sure as hell didn’t), I did some digging. According to Acne and it Therapy:

Corneodesmolytic… results in desquamation due to degradation of corneodesmosomes, which are proteinaceous complexes that effectively rivet corneocytes together.

Uhhhhhhh ok so some translation is in order! Here’s the dumbed down version:

Corneodesmolytic… results in [the shedding of the outermost membrane of skin] due to degradation of [proteins that hold [epidermis skin cellstogether], which are proteinaceous complexes that effectively rivet [epidermis skin cells] together.

In short, I’m pretty certain corneodesmolytic is science jargon for exfoliation (or at least a certain type of exfoliation), which means the study is effectively claiming salicylic acid at a pH of 6.5 exfoliates as well as salicylic acid at 3.12. This is just one study but it seems like a compelling reason to reconsider the requirement that salicylic acid products need to possess a pH under 4.

Possible Explanation #2

A simpler explanation is basic math. Salicylic acid is recommended for use in concentrations of .5% of 2%. The upper limit of the range is 4X the lower limit, so perhaps the high amount of salicylic acid in this product allows for it to still be effective at a higher pH.

At a pH of 4.5, 2.87% of salicylic acid will be in free-acid form. For this product, this means 2% X 2.87% or .057% of this face milk is free salicylate acid.

So, we can calculate what % of the hydroxy acid needs to be in free acid form in a hypothetical .5% concentration BHA product to effectively have the same amount of free acid as our DHC product as thus: .057% / .5% = 11.48%. Using the same chart, we can see that a pH of 3.5 corresponds to 22.79% of salicylic acid being in free acid form and a pH of 4 corresponds to 8.54% free acid. 11.48% lands between 22.79% and 8.54%, being obviously closer to 8.54.

This means our 2% salicylic milk with a pH of 4.5 effectively has the same amount of free salicylate acid as a .5% salicylic acid product with a pH between 3.5 and 4 but closer to 4. If you think about it this way, the pH is still higher than optimal, but within a more acceptable range. Cosrx’s very popular BHA product, after all, has a pH of 4.0.

Possible Explanation #3

As mentioned earlier, pH strips are not super accurate. Salicylic Face Milk also contains a few oils, which may or may not complicate how well the strips work. If anyone else has this product and wants to give a pH test a go, I’d love to hear what the results are!

Back to the product. I like this product and I think it’s effective, despite its higher pH, but it’s not perfect. First, it smells a little bit like tiger balm to me (menthol-like). I think this is due to one of the extracts (probably Perilla Ocymoides Leaf Extract). I grew up with Tiger Balm and find it strangely comforting, but its definitely an acquired smell. Also, I like to use my acids in the morning and as the weather has gotten warmer, I suspect this product is making my face greasy. This face milk is not oily but leaves a bit of a film. For whatever reason, if I use this at night, I don’t notice the film, but in the mornings I have to be careful about how much I apply. This brings me to my third complaint. The instructions advise to apply the salicylic milk all over your face and to do so one to three times a day. Three times is definitely excessive and seems like it could easily lead to over-exfoliation. I would instead use this once a day at maximum and if using in the mornings, only use as a spot treatment or on problem areas to prevent excess greasiness or skin flakiness.

I have been using this product since mid-June and my face is noticeably less bumpy and inflammed. It seems stronger and slightly more effective at getting my breakouts under control than BS2.0, but I don’t think I like it better. Regardless, BHAs definitely have earned a firm spot in my routine. Even though I still have acne, BHAs have taken my face from pus-volcano-covered-mess-that-makes-me-never-want-to-leave-the-house to blemished-but-with-makeup-I-can-be-a-functional-human-being. When I first started breaking out, I became more self-conscious and ashamed of my physical appearance than I’ve ever been in my life. BHAs have not (yet) restored my blemish-free face, but it cleared things up enough to restore my self-confidence.

TL;DR

Gentle (no flaking or increased sensitivity) yet effective (hello purging) BHA with impressive anti-inflammatory properties but possibly questionable pH. If you’re looking for an Asian BHA product with more than .5% salicylic acid, this is a fantastic candidate!

Pros:

  • non-drying
  • effective
  • anti-inflammatory

Cons:

  • higher pH
  • menthol-like fragrance
  • feels filmy in warmer weather
  • DHC’s instructions seem very ill-advised

DHC Salicylic Face Milk