Holiday Weekend Essentials: May 2017

Greetings from the first official summer holiday weekend! I’m writing this post while curled up in bed with a multiple masks on my skin – testing out Josh Rosebrook’s new Advanced Hydration Mask on dry patches and a mask I finally added to my collection: Tammy Fender’s Epi-Peel, on oilier/more congested areas.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve provided an update on the products in my rotation and as many of you have told me through e-mail and on social media, I agree that individual product review posts do not really provide a comprehensive window into how exactly the products work or are being used together. So without further ado, these are the products I’ve been using regularly for the past month or have introduced recently.


Sun: Spring and Summer is all about committing to sun protection. Mustela Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ has become one of my all time favorites and I have repurchased this about 5 times which is super rare as I love to try new products. For starters, this is a broad spectrum sunscreen that uses only mineral based sun protection (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide) rather than chemicals which can be unstable and irritating. I’m not speaking from an analytical standpoint on chemical sunscreens, I speak from experience as someone whose eyes burn with any combination of chemical sunscreens. I also prefer the way my skin looks and feels with a physical block, yes it leaves a white cast and feels heavier than a chemical screen, but if you put it on just right it works like a highlighter and your skin just looks more luminous while being protected. And yes Zinc Oxide physical blockers may feel weighty, but they’re also anti-inflammatory and can be mixed with foundation for tinted coverage. Comparatively, chemical screens always add an oily shine, require more frequent applications, and don’t hide any imperfections (in fact I’m pretty sure the shininess accentuates them).

The SPF 50+ rating for Mustela is very rare for a non-chemical sunscreen so that is a huge bonus. There is a lot of evidence that many sunscreens on the market do not hold up to their sun protection claims, but Mustela is a brand that is developed from it’s French Lab origins which has higher compliance markers than the US (they have the seal of approval from the Melanoma International Foundation) and their line is specially made for the delicate skin of babies which makes this sunscreen even better for sensitive skin. They are categorized as a natural sunscreen but this isn’t really a botanical sunscreen and the ingredients are clean enough for me although some might not like that there are iffy ingredients like silicone. The kicker: a 3.4 oz tube costs only $16, which is INSANE for the quality you get, which may be why it’s sold out everywhere (Dermstore currently has 20% off but if they’re not allowing back ordering, try Sephora).

Fragrance: My former Neiman Marcus co-worker says there are two types of women, those who invest in perfume and lip stick, and those who invest in skincare, I fall firmly into the latter group.  I love sampling fragrances but cannot wear any because the synthetics are nauseating to me. I remember trying natural perfumes from Whole Foods and feeling like I was just throwing on essential oils from an aromatherapy class which felt too crunchy for my taste. Enter Kahina with their concentrated roll-on oil perfumes. Essaouira is a seaside Moroccan village, and their namesake fragrance is a fresh and crisp homage with notes of floral rose, sweet woodsy sandalwood, uplifting lavender, and a very pristine top-note of citrusy petitgrain. The perfume is 100% steam distilled essential oils which means it is powerful and concentrated yet never cloying as there are no artificial fragrances. The staying power is just right where you can catch it wafting with the summer breeze. And best of all, it actually smells like something I’d be able to get at a department store.

Moisture: Weleda’s Soothing Almond Facial Lotion is basic, and that’s the point. This lotion is meant for sensitive skin and is hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free. With all the active serums, masks, toners in my rotation, I really wanted a moisturizer that just moisturized really well. This is that product. Sweet Almond Oil and Plum Kernal Oil both fight dryness, enhance softness and soothing properties that makes this lotion a pacifier for when you overdo it with the retinol or acid-toning. Too much action from acids and serums can lead to inflammation that ages skin and makes it more delicate, this lotion is my trick for avoiding that fate whenever I start seeing redness or feeling tightness and excess tingling and it has always come through for me.

Acid Toner: Speaking of… I finally jumped on the Drunk Elephant bandwagon by taking the plunge on Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum. I’m not a huge proponent of regular acid-toning, but during the summer with the sweat+excess oil production plus heavier sunscreen usage, pores are way more prone to clogging so I acid tone to basically let my skin breathe every few days especially if I feel a breakout developing. This is a transparent brownish gel that works best under a moisturizer and reminds me of Arcona’s The Solution. I just started using this night serum (which is really an acid toner), and like all glycolic acid based acid-toners, my skin tingled/burned a bit when first used but is now adjusting.

That is one of the things I feel needs to be said: I know this brand made a splash by intimating that due to a lack of essential oils, their products will not cause irritation and be a sensitive skin’s best friend, which is a hefty promise that is unfortunately not realistic. All ingredients have the potential to cause irritation based on individual allergies and it is therefore not possible to have an ingredient much less a formulation that will work for everyone without triggering any sensitivities given that no two people are alike. Drunk Elephant may not use essential oils but they do use other active ingredients, in this case a 12% Glycolic Acid in addition to Tartaric and Lactic Acid which is very powerful and should be approached with some caution. I think there will be more people with sensitivities to this acid than a dilution of an essential oil like rose oil. It all depends on your personal skin sensitivity and how a product is formulated (concentration, other ingredients, other products used) that will determine how your skin gets on with the product so don’t blindly think this will work for you and don’t automatically assume anything with essential oils is going to be bad for you if you don’t have those sensitivities. This is not a critique on the T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, in fact I quite like the formula so far but I just wanted to provide clarity to what I felt was a problematic message by their founder regarding skin sensitivity. As for the actual product, I’ll be able to give more insight after I’ve used it a while longer.

Mask: I’ve really been obsessed with masks lately. Beyond the two mentioned at the beginning, I finally got around to opening my Tata Harper Purifying Mask which is. oh. so. good. Truth be told, I like this more than her original Resurfacing Mask which is already one of my favorites. This is one of those cases where Tata’s tendency to stay in her own lane in terms of developing products that primarily suit her own skin type (mature – drier skin) is beneficial. This purifying mask is deep cleansing, removes “environmental toxins” and great for “eliminating surface build up” which is much needed in the summer, and because it’s a Tata Harper product – even the purifying mask is buttery and non-stripping. It spreads so easily and rinses clean, and is a total pleasure to use (the scent is very fresh and spa like, I’d describe it as crisp lemongrass meets zingy ginger)- only con is that it only comes in that one size which really doesn’t last long enough given how addictive this will be throughout summer. Seriously though, please – someone at Tata Harper, I’m glad you got the pricing under $60 but these masks HAVE to be offered in a size that is bigger than 1 oz.

Serum: I think anyone who invests in skincare asks the question: “is this the best that money can buy?” With YÜLI, the answer is a resounding yes. Liquid Courage is their antioxidant serum which I use year round but especially for environmental protection and repair during summer. This serum is special, here’s why: mainstream lines throw in superstar ingredients next to an ingredients list of fillers that are cheap and don’t do too much, while green/organic lines just throw together a bunch of plant oils and call it an “antioxidant” serum or a super active serum. With YÜLI, each product feels like a realization of a dream product the same way that companies like BMW and Mercedes Benz design concept vehicles to realize purist visions outside of prohibitive production costs or other business considerations.

Case in point: YÜLI designed Liquid Courage to be the antioxidant powerhouse with a base made of a botanical seed complex which is the densest natural source of nutrients and has the highest levels of antioxidant activity. Then there is the advanced form of Vitamin C that even a line like Sunday Riley has JUST incorporated as the star ingredient in her newly released Vitamin C serum, heralded as a cutting edge discovery. This just shows the level that YULI is on, as the same form of Vitamin C is just one of the many notable ingredients for this serum, when with any other brand’s product, much less Sunday Riley, it is treated as the singular superstar. YÜLI also put in Ferulic Acid and Vitamin E, which means, yup this is a cleanly formulated CE Ferulic serum with an organic antioxidant botanical seed oil base – basically all the best things for your skin in one bottle. Oh we’re not done: then there are peptides and their exclusive – biofermentation of black garlic which increases its antioxidant potency by 6 times. The serum sinks in effortlessly and has a crisp, bright scent of neroli, which like most of their ingredients, are grown right on their own farm which brings fresh to a new level as well. And while a “super oil” these days will often mean a blend of 11-20+ oils if that, at around the $200 mark, this one has 20+ of the most beneficial ingredients, including powerful ones that are not harnessed in this synergy anywhere else for $125. So yes, this is the best that money can buy and the fact that it comes in at the price it does shows they design the best products and really deliver on value, this is why YÜLI has earned such a cult following where their products are continuously sold out and it is also why I’m currently on bottle number 8 of this antioxidant serum.

That’ll do it for this round-up, any products you have questions about? Drop a comment!

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What I’ve Been Using: Nov/Dec

Hello readers! It’s been a longer time than I expected since I last wrote a post. There have been a lot going on in my personal life that I do not share on here or anywhere really. But some things do not change and that is my love of beauty products.

I have been working my way through products and based on your e-mails of “what should I use?” I realize the importance of providing product feedback in a more cohesive routine manner rather than leave them in an individual bubble.

So here is what I’m loving:

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African Botanics Fleurs D’Afrique

Holy crap you guys, this is a face oil on steroids! African Botanics was not kidding when they released this “intensive recovery oil” which contains marine micro-algae, retinol, vitamin c and CoQ10 in ONE SINGULAR BLEND! The scent is incredible and it’s not a surprise considering Jasmine Essential Oil and Rose Essential Oil are ingredients 3 and 5! This is over achieving. For anyone who has ever questioned the effectiveness of a face oil, try this and let me know if you still feel the same way. I seriously think this stuff is divine and savor each drop that comes out of the beautiful bottle. Pictures do not do it justice, just bring this up to a light to see the golden oil through the black frosted glass, it’s a thing of beauty. I could only use this 2-3 times a week at the beginning because it was so strong, which is another thing, sensitive skin might want to look at a calmer option like their Pure Marula Oil. But for those of you who just want to put a high quality buffet of actives on your skin in a face oil form, look no further. Buy this, enjoy, you’ve met your perfect match.

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Lina Hanson Global Treasures Balm

The first time I saw this balm on Lina Hanson’s Instagram, I knew I had to have it. Sure we’ve seen balms by many a green brand at this point but I was captivated by the gorgeous color and gold specks! Then I looked at the ingredients list and discovered the green color came from matcha, the gold from real 24K gold, and the inclusion of pearl powder. Gaahhh.. what a creation! When it arrived, I excitedly opened the jar and it was the beauty junkie version of what I imagine it would be like to meet a hot guy off of Tinder. “Ohhh that’s how the color looks in person and omg there are those gold specks!” I took a deep inhale and was welcomed with a warm, chocolaty note. I wrote Lina basically saying “Yeah it looks just as amazing in person but how are you not telling people how good this stuff smells?!” I’ve been saving this balm for winter to use on dry spots. But the real secret is how well this works as an eye balm. It doesn’t tug or pull, and gives the perfect emollient feel that lets you know that it’s working to get your skin buttery soft. My eye serums have been replaced by this gem.

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Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate

This embodies the innovative and quirky aspects of Asian skincare with a bouncy memory serum texture. Overnight Memory Serum is an ultra-concentrated form of Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist which means it is very very hydrating and absolutely packed with the rejuvenating powers of the mist. It is recommended for overnight recovery and I consider it to be extremely effective in combating dry winter air. Tatcha is made in Japan and I think of this as a very luxurious pressed serum/essence, as it is a very concentrated and nutrient packed product that delivers results like a serum. A little does go a long way with this and I use the gold scooper that comes with the jar which measures out the perfect amount. It kind of feels like breaking the super soft Japanese tofu over your skin and I say that in the most fun way. If your skin doesn’t handle moisturizers well (hello acne prone ladies) but needs that surge of moisture in the winter, this is the product you need. On a final note, check out how bouncy it is!

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Yarok Feed Your Volume Shampoo

I’m making my way through green shampoos and the latest stop is at Yarok which I have heard so much about. I believe it was Spirit who praised the way this smelled and although I enjoyed Rahua, I wasn’t completely in love with the palo santo scent so I had my eye on this for a while. I was pleasantly surprised by the gentle and light aroma of the shampoo. The way it smelled and felt reminded me of a fruity syrup. This shampoo was not drying at all, and made my hair feel and look great. I do not think it is really strong enough for my scalp though because it gets oilier quicker. With that said, I still really like this shampoo, my hair seems healthier and it just feels good. I find myself running my hands through my hair often because it just seems healthier. Many organic shampoos lack those chemical ingredients that give hair that “sheen” and “luster” but this brings it back with good ingredients which is incredible. I’m going to continue forward and see if my scalp situation sorts itself out – if it does, this will be a keeper.

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Yuli Metamorphic Elixir

When winter arrives, Metamorphic Elixir comes into play in a big way. If any green brand is going to pack in performance alongside the highest quality ingredients, it is Yuli and Metamorphic means business when it comes to hydration in the form of a botanically derived hyaluronic acid that is most compatible to the form of natural present hyaluronic acid in our skin, plant powered retinol alternatives (immortelle flower and frankincense which are both highly rejuvenating are literally ingredients 3 & 4), as well as the humectant glycerin which is a common ingredient however theirs is derived from fatty acids found in coconuts. Also if you love roses, this is flowing with a complex of roses with damask rose as the 2nd most abundant ingredient and also including a very rare white rose which smells soft and delicate. I think it was Chalkboard Mag that called this rose water on steroids for this reason. I first took the plunge to Metamorphic Elixir after hearing The Hermes Hippie and Rebecca Bailey of NMDL both  rave about it and it was love at first mist for me as well. A good face mist is like crack (I assume.. not speaking from experience), you just can’t get enough and already start dreading running out before you’re half way through  – that is exactly the relationship I have with this elixir. Add this to your winter regimen, it’s the tall drink of water your skin has craved.

The Sunday Trio

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Although everyone worries about their skin during the winter, I’ve always found summer to be more challenging. With the hot weather and scorching sun you have to not only figure out how to keep or increase moisture in your skin, but you have to account for increased sweatiness, oiliness, and increased usage of sunscreen. This leads me to sharing my Sunday trio, 3 steps that work as my weekly “restart” button to get my skin back into shape for the week ahead.

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YÜLI Pure Mask

This is one of the best powder to cream masks I’ve experienced. As is to be expected with YÜLI, there is a level of thoughtfulness and sophistication here that is quite special. The airy texture of the powder is super-fine that once activated with water turns into a silky cream that applies effortlessly onto skin. The reason this works so well for summer is because the ingredients have a cooling and soothing effect thanks to traditional Asian botanicals like mung bean, green tea and goji berries. When my skin is red, overheated, congested, or feeling gross in general from the effects of summer, this is like a cool smoothie for my skin – filter out the bad stuff, chock full of the good stuff.

Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate

I am absolutely obsessed with this product. Like all Tatcha products, the presentation is beautiful but more so – the memory serum concentrate has such a unique formula where the texture is like a cross between a soft Japanese tofu and JELLO. Even when I scoop over some of the concentrate, the formula refills the areas I just scooped – how cool is that?!

So moving beyond that, the reason I love this is because it is essentially the ultra-concentrated form of Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist that is universally loved (it was even recently featured on Kylie Jenner’s snapchat). So this is THE product for getting hydration into skin and to accelerate recovery from a day out – making it the perfect pairing to the Pure Mask.

Aurelia Cell Revitalize Day Moisturizer

This is a dreamy, rich day cream that helps with dryness and dehydration, and it is the final step to seal in all of the good stuff from the first two steps. While the thickness may deter some, I love the way the creaminess just melts away into skin leaving it feeling only nourished without heaviness. This is definitely a very high quality product that is very rich with organic oils, aloe, and probiotics which keep skin surface healthy. Simply a pleasure to use.

The Spring Beauty Edit

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As seasons change, so too does our skin needs making Spring the perfect time to update our skincare top shelf! Gone are the thick moisturizers and anything that can be described as “heavy,” and in are fresh, enlivening products that awaken skin. The above are some products that I’d like to share with you as part of my Spring Beauty Edit:

Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser: As a first step, this cleanser smells lovely and gets rid of make-up/sunscreen build up. It washes off as a milky fluid making removal easy. Good for a quick removal or extended massage. Use in place of a balm which might prove too heavy for Spring/Summer.

Pro-tip: Apply on dry skin and cleanse before washing. The times I used this in the shower resulted in cleanser washing immediately into my eyes as I believe this cleanser is designed to break down with continued water exposure.

Kypris Moonlight CatalystA gentle resurfacing treatment that sloughs away dead skin cells and exfoliates dead skin cells that perhaps have been trapped under all the oils and moisturizers from winter. A night-time only serum, apply before face oil for best results.

Pro-tip: The older version which is more of a brownish-orange hue seemed to work better for me and the new version which is clear seems much more mild. Both versions seem to work best when slightly heated in hands first. Dry/delicate skin should use this 1-2 times a week as too much exfoliation can be counter productive and reveal thin/crepy skin. I’ll provide a more in-depth review comparing the two soon.

YÜLI M.E. Skin FuelSpring is a season of change, meaning skin may be in flux. This face oil from YÜLI is incredibly high quality being made on site from really incredible ingredients that are beneficial for problematic or compromised skin – black cumin, broccoli seed, sea buckthorn, red raspberry, prickly pear and the formula is focused on balancing and optimizing skin. Deemed a multivitamin for skin and topped with a refined fragrant jasmine note, few will find anything to complain about with this versatile oil.

Pro-tip: Apply to skin that is dewy. Oily and acne prone skins can actually put this anti-inflammatory oil on breakouts to speed up healing. Red/irritated/sensitive skins will like this gentle formula as it contains actual anti-irritant extracts. Use the press/pull technique for maximum absorption.

Kari Gran Lip WhipAvailable in a variety of colors, the naked Lip Whip is a beautifully packaged, green lip balm that gives a viable option for us girls looking for an alternative from the Rodin and Omorovicza balms. The buttery texture is melt on your lips soft while providing a solid base to apply lip stains (or just opt for one of their lip tints). Wonderful to heal chapped lips from chronic winter dryness for supple Spring kissers.

Pro-tip: layer under or dab and mix with heavily pigmented lip products (i.e. W3ll People, RMS, etc) to create a natural, moisturizing tint.

Sunday Riley Good Genes: Good Genes perhaps has Sunday Riley’s biggest cult following, any IT girl from Emily Weiss of Into The Gloss to Alexandra Pakzad will swear by this stuff. Good Genes Treatment is a multitasking lactic acid lotion that is perfect for Spring Cleaning skin. The lactic acid is pretty strong at first (with a very acidic 2.4 pH) and helps to brighten dull, tired winter skin. The first time I used it, my skin felt the tingle and once the sensation subsided, it appeared that all the trapped sebum from winter were released onto my skin as I looked absolutely shiny (TMI?)

Pro-tip: As lactic acid is an AHA, do not layer with oils or actives that can be easily broken down such as Vitamin C and Retinol. Use as either a 20 minute mask (2-3 full pumps) or alone in the evening with an inactive moisturizer.

Kate Somerville Cytocell Eye CreamMy eyes are SENSITIVE. Origins/REN eye products make it red, oils always end up in my eyes and many of the luxury (non-natural) products can really irritate my eyes so when I find one that works, I stick with it, especially through Spring when pollen and allergens are at an all time high. This eye cream from Kate Somerville has been on my wish list for years before I could afford to spend $75 on an eye cream. The ingredients include Vitamin C, a milk peptide complex and Peptide P-199 that renews skin. It relieves, soothes and gives me confidence that somehow my eyes look awake even if I am not.

Pro-tip: Stock in the fridge for added cooling benefits which helps with dark circles and firming. This cream glides onto skin so it can also be used as an eye make-up primer.

YÜLI Halcyon: This cleanser is an all time favorite and is in the Spring Beauty Edit because 1) with a flower water base, it smells like spring in a bottle 2) Spring is the best season for bare skin and this cleanser is perfect for that quick, one-step cleanse to keep skin beautiful. Every wash leaves my skin naked but never stripped just super comfortable and plush.

Pro-tip: The most luxurious cleanse I’ve had was by wetting skin with rose-water or face mist first before applying 3 full pumps of Halcyon and massaging skin. I do this every Sunday and my skin is baby soft, glowing, and pampered afterward. This gel cleanser is also superb when mixed with powder-to-cream masks.

In Fiore Encens Vetivert Body Oil: Unfortunately not yet in stock from In Fiore, this seasonal body oil is one I am well and truly obsessed over. The body oil comes out in a green hue due to the grapeseed oil base and sinks into skin beautifully that it can be applied to dry or wet skin. In Fiore’s scents are phenomenal and their body oils almost double as perfume oils, each transporting the wearer. This one is perhaps my favorite: Vetiver, Neroli, Jasmine, Mandarin all shine. It’s a floral heaven with some edge due to the grassey Vetiver note.

Pro-tip: Apply as a hair oil and do a weekly scalp massage with this oil. Not only do I find it beneficial for my hair and scalp, but it helps keep the scent ruminating all around.

What products have you put on the back burner and what are your staples for Spring? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

My Journey into Korean Beauty, An Education

Recently I’ve been swept into the K-Beauty trend or Korean Beauty trend. “Is this were you use a gajillion products in your routine?”/ “Isn’t that the same trend that’s pushing snail slime?” You ask? To which I say – yes, all true. The Korean Beauty trend has gained a lot of attention from the now ubiquitous serial-killer looking sheet masks seen all over Instagram to the focus on a disciplined, multiple product regimen.

I decided to explore this trend more in depth because I wanted to see for myself where the truth stood between hype and results. Would using such uncommon ingredients be more beneficial? Is the multiple product approach better than one that is streamlined?

It was a little daunting at first when hearing about 10-step routines and just the categories (cleansers, toners, essences, serums, pressed serums, oils, ampules, moisturizers, sheet masks, rubber masks, splash masks – OH MY!) alone are enough to intimidate any beginner or novice. I enlisted the help of natural K-beauty purveyor Glow Recipe which provides handy , informative guides and insights on latest trends as well as Sokoglam‘s Charlotte Cho who is a wonderful source for all things K-Beauty.

It was through watching their videos, reaching out on Instagram and a couple of e-mails back and forth that I was able to form my insights which is that like any beauty regimen, the Korean Beauty regimen is all about what works for you. For the most part, the reason for so many steps is because the K-Beauty philosophy is comprehensive rather than tedious and purposefully overwhelming. After researching the products and categories, I believe it’s really important to think about everything holistically in terms of how products will interact with each other and what they bring to the table independently.

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One of the first things I noticed was that despite those uniquely out-there ingredients, most of the ingredients list tend to be fairly common and not that different from what one might easily find in a Sephora store. Take for example the snail goo sleeping mask from Missha (Cell Renew Snail Sleeping Mask) shown above. Sounds pretty cool right? The actual product is really just a rich creamy lotion, no hint of goo but an abundance of synthetic fragrance. In my experience, there wasn’t anything that distinguished it from other moisturizers despite being called a sleeping mask. I suppose in this regard overnight moisturizers might as well all be called sleeping masks and day time moisturizers, activity masks?

What I did gravitate toward was Glow Recipe, a site where products are really celebrated from being uniquely different. While the brand curates “natural” offerings, the green beauties out there may notice some iffy ingredients such as PEG’s but in general I didn’t see too many bad ingredients. Think of this purveyor as carrying brands akin to Origins, REN, Grown Alchemist, where they’re not entirely ‘green’ but a daliance isn’t going to be ideology shattering either. I love how enthusiastic the ladies at Glow Recipe are with sharing their latest finds in which each product is given a chance to shine – their latest discovery is the Aqua Peel which is an acid treatment applied through a soaked over sized Q-Tip, pretty cool right?

With Glow Recipe, I found that the Whamisa line really spoke to me and I purchased their Organic Flowers Toner [Deep Rich] which is described as a bouncy essence like hydrating step and Organic Flowers Facial Oil which I purchased purely to see how Korean oils may differ from ones we purchase here. The Organic Flowers Facial Oil reminded me of the Acure Oil in terms of packaging and was noticeably light and quick absorbing. As a fan of face oils and being spoiled by brands like Odacite and Yuli that just can’t be beat when it comes to freshness, nothing about the Whamisa Oil stood out to me per se although it proved competent as a night time oil (it contains citrus oils which automatically classes it as an evening only product for me).

Still, the toner immediately found its way into my routine, nestled between cleansing and a fine botanical mist. I found the emollient texture to add a certain bit of moisture cushion which is much welcomed during the winter. I also like that it relies on Aloe Vera, botanical extracts and natural fermentation which is something we see in green beauty as well.

In fact, I recognized that a lot of things that worked for me with Korean Beauty also worked in line with green beauty from the reliance of high quality ingredients, plant based actives and designing a comprehensive system focused upon individual skin conditions. I was able to take the teachings of K-Beauty and apply it to my fairly green top shelf:

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My evening K-Beauty inspired Green routine starts with double cleansing. In Korea and Japan, women believe that to take off the layers of the day requires a multi-step process starting with the make-up, sunscreen and water-proof products. This is usually an oil based cleanser and in my case on light days, I use an oil-based cream cleanser like In Fiore’s Treate. After the surface is cleared, it’s time to really cleanse and freshen the skin and Korean beauty usually incorporates a light foaming, pH balanced cleanser that is usually SLS and alcohol free. Of course, for this step I use my beloved Yuli Halcyon Cleanser, which I find to use much higher quality and advanced ingredients – I really do consider it to be THE gift to us green beauty fans.

Now that skin is bare and fresh, I acid tone with First Aid Beauty’s Radiance Pads to give a gentle resurfacing which only helps skin absorb more moisture to follow. This is the most gentle acid toner I’ve used and it was recommended by a reader (thank you!). Next I use 3 drop-fuls of Whamisa’s Organic Flowers Toner and press into my skin in upward circular motions. This gives my skin a good moisture base to build from. Then I follow with Tatcha’s Luminous Deep Hydration Serum to really amp up the hydration factor with hyaluronic acid and Okinawa red algae which is very deeply moisturizing as the name suggests and gives skin some bounce. Next, with my skin loaded up from the water, glycerin, hydrating actives and hyaluronic acid, I mist it with MUN’s No.11 Rejuvenating Rose toner which is based on water and rose water (which the aforementioned actives will bind to skin) and also contains hyaluronic acid. In Korean Beauty, this is the pressed oil/ampoule stage so I press 1.5 to 2 pumps of Yuli’s Liquid Courage antioxidant serum to my skin as it is the most concentrated product and I want to give time for my skin to absorb all of the good stuff. Liquid Courage itself contains a unique ingredient in the form of a bio-ferment of black garlic which kicks up the antioxidant capacity, and don’t worry I can confirm that there is no unpleasant garlic odor, only a soft neroli fragrance. With serums, I allow one to two minutes for it to absorb before continuing.

During this time I diligently apply my Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Serum which is one of my favorite as it contains peptides, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid as well. I do a dot on each ring finger and dab across my under eye. This Eye Serum relieves that bit of tightness that I sometimes feel and sinks in quickly. I press any leftover product to my smile lines and around my lips.

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As the final step I use Tatcha’s Soothing Triple Recovery Cream which locks in all that hydration and itself is formulated with the highest concentration of colloidal oatmeal which is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. This anti-aging moisturizer also contains Indigo extract and is based on water and olive based squalane. The Soothing Triple Recovery Cream also does not contain essential oils and coupled with the colloidal oatmeal has won the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

So while I know this might look like a lot immediately, once each step is broken down everything starts making sense in their place. So what began as an exploration of a new trend really just showed me that it was a different take on the tried and true: do what works for you! I’ll likely continue to incorporate some things from Korean beauty because they’re quite playful and out of the box with product ideas and a lot of things actually work very well, however I’ve come away with a deeper appreciation for high quality ingredients that us green beauty fans have treasured all along.

The Cleansing Game Changers

One of the first posts I wrote on here was about how my search for the elusive “perfect” cleanser led me on the journey toward becoming the skin care aficionado that I’ve become today. Although my heart (and bank account) skips a beat for the next new serum, the purest of oils or the dreamiest of lotions; I find myself most moved by the power of a good cleanser.

Cleansing is one of the trickiest things to get right as effective can often mean drying, while hydrating cleansers may well cause clogged pores and more build-up. And while we all have our philosophy for what cleansing regimen works (Oil Cleanse, 4-2-4 In Fiore, Powder formulas, etc), the truth is that most cleansers are made to excel in only certain areas.

Consider the following as a comprehensive cheat sheet for the best of the best broken down by type.

Beauty Idealist Cleansers

Cleansing Oils & Balms

Some prefer to leave the two in their own category but ultimately when a balm is heated upon contact with skin, it becomes an oil so at the end you’re still oil cleansing. Oil Cleansing is extremely popular within the green beauty world and outside of it, is regarded more as a make-up remover. In fact, oils work under the principal of pulling water-resistant sunscreen and make-up off of skin by bonding with the oil bases in those products. This makes them particularly effective as a night-time cleanse. However, the cleansing is rather superficial and further cleansing is necessary for skin to work its best so even if you’re one of those “oil and done” types – try to add in a second cleanser at least twice a week to truly get rid of all the bad stuff.

Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil: gentle, subtle and a sight to behold, this cleansing oil is light yet substantial when it comes into contact with make-up. The emulsifying ingredients mean this oil rinses clean after it has done its job, leaving your skin surface clear and free of residue. (Mini Review Here)

de Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm: Everything about this balm is nirvana from the oh-so-soft buttery texture that melts into skin to the most beautiful of aromas – if you are searching for a cleansing balm, this needs to be at the top of that list. This is a balm I apply and will just sit, massage and enjoy while watching ‘scopes or catching up on tv. Although emulsifier is included in the rich-formula, I still recommend cloth removal to make sure everything is rinsed off.

Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil Makeup Remover: Well… this is quite a mouthful of a name isn’t it? But it’s easy to see why Green Beauty fans the world over are so in love with this oil: it’s green, it’s effective and it feels great! Again – this oil will emulsify upon contact with water which means my 3 favorite best in class oil based cleansers all emulsify with water and that is no coincidence. I’d say the very fact that this oil contains an emulsifier elevates it ahead of the green beauty pack because the worst thing is to be left with oily residue from your cleanser – giving your 2nd cleanser more work to do. (Review Here)

Cleansing Milks & Creams

These are kind of hybrid that usually contain oils/waxes yet also surfactants (a.k.a the things that act as detergents). I recommend milks and creams for those with very dry and sensitive skin. The cleansing power is middle of the pack but it likely will not cause your skin to freak out either.

In Fiore Treate: A very gentle cleanser described as a “floral milk,” this cleanser contains both water based ingredients and oils. The texture is very light and creamy. It can be applied onto wet or dry skin depending on how lazy you are how you feel. It seems to work better in removing make-up on a drier surface while the wetter version feels better afterward as though dilution with water makes it gentler yet more thorough. The floral jasmine smell is actually very subtle for an In Fiore product where the rest of the line of facial care products smell positively like perfume oils.

Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser: I originally sampled a travel version of this cleanser and fell in love with it. I finished it up in under 1 week which meant the 200 ml bottle was destined for a spot on my beauty shelf. If I had to choose between Kahina or In Fiore’s cream cleansers, I’d pick this one: it’s more economic (lower price and larger size!) and I felt like the cream held together longer whereas the In Fiore would start to separate as I was within weeks of finishing it. This cleanser contains what I consider to be the most subtle fragrance of all cleansers on this list yet it isn’t boring, it’s a very light fragrance that gives it a sophisticated feel.

Aurelia Miracle Cleanser: Alright so I can’t talk about the cream cleansers without mentioning this one right? It was pretty much THE product of 2014 that catapulted Aurelia onto the scene. As far as polish goes, this contains bells and whistles, as I originally reviewed. Yet a year removed, I have to say I find myself opting for either In Fiore or Kahina when I want a cream cleanse and when I want to indulge in a massage, it’s de Mamial’s balm (above).

Cleansing Powder 

These are for the “my skin feels dull and congested, please just shed!” moments where purposeful exfoliation is necessary. While some powders can have a rough and abrasive texture, the two I recommend manage to get the job done without irritating skin.

Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder: Someone once told me they purchased this from Sephora because it was the only product to have all 5 star reviews and I don’t find that hard to believe. Tatcha’s Polished Rice Enzyme Powders somehow get that layer of dead skin cells off without making skin feel like it just went through a thorough exfoliation. There are four comfort levels for each skin type (Classic, Dry, Sensitive and Oily). Sensitive is seriously gentle and feels like rubbing a creamy pillow onto skin, yet when you’re done you’ll notice the effect of the exfoliation all the same. Oily is serious business, blackheads and congested pores along the nose are no match – two uses for me was all it took. (Mini Review)

de Mamiel Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate: Okay, I want to live in the de Mamiel studio because all of her products smell like bottled happiness. Although this too is a powder, the scent will stay with you after you turn this into a paste- and that is not a bad thing! Consider this a gentler version of May Lindstrom’s Clean Dirt only instead of spices, you get roses, chamomile and calendula. The powder can be used alone a la Clean Dirt, and it’s also suggested to mix in with a cleanser which I’ve done as well. I prefer using it alone because the ingredients are so good that I don’t want to dilute it.

Cleansing Gels

These are the performance powerhouses that go deep to penetrate skin. They’re sometimes referred to as the 2nd cleanse in green beauty but I think they should really be thought of as the cleansing step after make-up removal. Cleansing gels are all about performance so they’re not going to coat your skin in residue but they also won’t leave your skin with the “I just lotioned myself” feeling after which for some can feel unnatural. A good formula is one that does not have soaps, alcohols, sulfates as these are the culprits that dry out skin and mess up skin’s pH. Look for low to non foaming gels with good slip for best results.

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip: This is an odd one – I originally found much to be loved yet when I continued using it I found daily use made my skin pretty flustered as I soon developed dry patches and break outs. This one earns a spot though because it’s great as a strong cleanser when your skin is misbehaving due to its seriously powerful mix of clays and anti-microbial plants. But when everything is good with your skin – leave it sitting on the beauty shelf, it looks good there anyway.

Grown Alchemist Gel Facial Cleanser: This cleanser perhaps comes closest to my former cleanser holy grail Ren’s Rose Centifolia Cleanser before they got bought out and the formula completely changed! Although the existence of citrus oils isn’t that great for day use, I still quite love this for its gentleness and the subtle plant fragrance. The inclusion of rose and aloe vera makes it very gentle on the skin.

YULI Halcyon: The only green cleanser to make it into this category, and no small feat either given the seriously advanced high-tech ingredients required to pull this off. My original review of this cleanser led to it being one of the most discussed products EVER on this site. As a cleanser, this is beautiful: intelligent ingredients that are gentle on skin, boost the moisture barrier and manage to give it a clean almost ‘nude’ relaxing feeling; as a beauty product, this is genius: a green formula featuring cleansing action through peptides (!!) and “hybridized fruit enzymes” do the heavy lifting. As an admitted beauty junkie – I  live for discovering new products, however this is the cleanser I keep coming back to and each time I’m reminded why I won’t be without it.

Hopefully I’ve covered the cleansers you love or are curious about – please share any cleansers you think would be great to add to this list. One thing is for certain and that is that whatever type of cleanser you like, there is a truly best in class green option available – what an achievement!

Summer Essentials

TheBeautyIdealist Summer Essentials

We often think of our skin as a “type” but the reality is, it is constantly in flux. So while some of us have dry skin or oily skin, the truth is every day our skin is responding to so many different things that when the seasons change, skin needs will have to be evaluated. Here are the products that have been so good to my skin so far this summer.

The Hair Care: Rahua Shampoo

When I originally reviewed this shampoo, I noted that it was slightly drying. However this quality also makes it pretty good for summer where hair and scalp in general is more oily. The organic blend of quinoa, rahua-ungurahua, and palo santo improves healing, moisture retention, and regenerates scalp and hair follicles. The gentle formula uses coconut derived surfactants to clean hair and it is said to be color-safe. All these qualities make it great for summer when the sun can do some serious damage.

The Eye Care: Verso  Super Eye Serum

I have a Goldilocks problem when it comes to eye product: too light and there is a tight/dry feeling, too heavy and it makes me feel suffocated (not to mention, I’ll no doubt end up rubbing it into my eye eventually). Verso’s Super Eye Serum gets it just right. It’s a light creamy gel texture that absorbs quickly without sitting on skin but retains that feeling of significance so the delicate skin around eyes is never feeling dry and tight. The patented Retinol 8 complex is formulated into every Verso product. It’s supposedly a more effective, gentler and UV stable form of retinol that increases collagen and reverses signs of aging around the eyes. I luckily don’t have crows feet or fine lines around my eyes but I feel this really makes my eye area take care of.

The First Cleanse: In Fiore Treate

I’m not a oil/balm cleansing type of girl. It takes too long to get skin clean from the film and doesn’t ever make my skin feel that clean afterward. In Fiore’s Treate is a non-foaming cream that gently helps to remove make-up and sunscreen which is very applicable for summer when my going out routine is sweat proof make-up and heavy water-resistant sunscreen. The scent is a light jasmine which also feels refreshing for summer. The bonus is unlike oil/balms, this actually washes clean. Look for a full review to come!

The Second Cleanse: YULI Halcyon

The second cleanse is a bit of a misleading moniker in that to the average person who thinks double cleansing is too complicated might go for the first and call it a day. The truth is that the second cleanse is when you need that really effective cleanser to come in and get rid of all those things lodged deep in skin and take care of skin. I originally reviewed this and loved it. Since then I’ve used a series of cleansers to see what was out there and similar to Nephriticus (scroll to 7:50 mark), this is a holy grail that I keep coming back to because each time I’m just reminded of how good this cleanser is. During summer our skin accumulates even more of that unwanted stuff and this is the right stuff to get it all removed without stripping/drying skin thanks to a pH balanced, soap-free formula.

The Mask: Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask

Summer is when we jam pack our schedules with weekend trips and vacations which makes this convenient jar of detoxifying mask perfect as your travel companion. Unlike powder masks which I love but take a while to prepare, this jelly mask comes ready to apply. The beta-hydroxy treatment sloughs off dead skin cells while clays detoxify skin. Perfect for summer. This mask applies like a dream gel and can be washed off when dried.  Easy and simple, with results every time.

The Refresher: YULI Metamorphic Elixir

I couldn’t finish this list without a facial mist! They’re so essential for cooling off, reducing inflammation, and irritation. I carry a mist with me everywhere, after the gym, if I’m out for too long, throughout the day in the office, and of course after cleansing. YULI Metamorphic Elixir is one I fell in love with last winter when I needed something hydrating but come summer and I’m still in love with it thanks to the completely hydro-based formula that doesn’t clog pores or add any weight onto skin. The smell of roses feel like a luxury every time I spray it and it helps to tone and soothe skin. It works great for when I’m out and about and also for an after-sun spray.

Do you also switch out products when the seasons change? What are your summer essentials?