Combination skin

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Cleansing Foam

This is now officially my holy grail cleanser.  My skin is oily (T-zone) and combination and I’m prone to freckles and blackheads.  Those with acne-prone skin know how difficult it can be to find a cleanser that cleans, brightens, and doesn’t overdry.  Here are my observations:

(1) Low pH–A low pH cleanser is crucial to keeping bacteria at bay and is especially important for those with acne-prone skin.  Many cleansers (especially those for oily skin) have too high of a pH (the feeling of squeaky clean skin may be enticing but you pay for it afterwards because the skin then overproduces oil to compensate for the amount washed away in the cleansing process).  

(2) Foam–Foaming cleansers are generally prescribed for oil and combination skin and they’re abundant in the marketplace.  The problem with most low pH cleansers on the market is they don’t foam.  And the ones that do foam are often high pH formulas.  However, a cleanser that has both low pH and foaming action is a rarity and considered a unicorn in the skincare world.  

(3) Ginseng–As with most products in Sulwhasoo’s line, this cleanser has a medicinal scent due to its Chinese herb ingredient list with ginseng being the start ingredient.  Ginseng can brighten and even out skin tone, among other things.  

When I use this in the shower at night, I leave it on my face for at least five minutes before washing it off.  Although my freckles remain the same, the rest of my face is visually brighter.  The product cleanses thoroughly without drying out my skin and is suitable for most skin types.  

The last time I checked (about three months ago), this cleanser was unavailable in the US via department stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman’s, and Saks (even though the stores all carry the Sulwhasoo line).  Amazon and eBay sell it but a good rule of thumb is to avoid such sites for skincare due to numerous incidents of counterfeit and expired products.  For those in the US who wish to purchase this product, my advise would be to lobby the Sulwhasoo counter at your local department store, make a phone call to a major Korean department store and attempt to order it and have it shipped to you, or stock up (or get a friend to) on your next visit to Asia (as far as I know, this cleanser is widely available at all Sulwhasoo counters in department stores across Asia).  

Tony Moly Tea Tree Cleansing Water

Many of us are familiar with the benefits and convenience of using micellar water, especially for those who live in areas with hard tap water.  Now, a version with tea tree oil!  Although I still like to use a traditional foaming cleanser to wash my face in the morning and at night, I use this as a mid-day refresher (I only wear makeup on special occasions now so a few quick sweeps of this no-wash cleanser with a cotton pad does the trick).  The result is soft, clean, and refreshed skin that smells faintly of tea tree oil.  

Dr. G SOS Sunscreen

On bad acne days when I’m going out, I opt to wear Dr. G’s A-Clear Sensi-AC Sunscreen.  This the only lightweight sunscreen with salicylic acid that I have been able to find on the market.  It feels heavier than the Innisfree Blueberry Sun Cream but it treats acne while protecting your face from the sun.  Also, fragrance free and no white cast.

SK-II Cotton Pads

You can’t buy these (as they come with your purchase of the large-sized SK-II Treatment Essence at the brand’s counters in Seoul) but these are the best facial cotton pads on the market.  Soft, lightweight, and anti-pilling–I never thought I’d rave about cotton pads.  In addition, unlike using cotton balls, there is very little waste of product.  And, rather than using them with quick swipes (as you would with cotton balls), you “pad across” your face using the pads, which can help prep your skin for the next product (i.e, serum, moisturizer, etc.).  Don’t use SK-II products?  Get a friend who does and offer to pay for the pads–they’re worth it!

Kat Burki & Biologique Recherche

In my continued quest for a holy grail skincare regimen and turning my bathroom into a spa, I’ve finally tried Biologique Recherché and Kat Burki.  Biologique Recherché is probably the cultiest of cult favorites and Kat Burki is one of the new kids on the block (although an American brand and made in the USA, it’s quite popular in the UK).  So without further ado:

(1)  Biologique Recherché Lait VIP O2–This is an exfoliating milk cleanser that contains lactic acid and niacinamide as two of its star ingredients (full list of ingredients may be found on all sites that sell BR).  I like this cleanser.  Gentle feel yet powerful exfoliation and can be used daily.  However, there are so many other cleansers on the market that does the same thing.  This is my favorite item from the line (which isn’t saying much).

(2)  Biologique Recherché Masque Vivant–This is a clarifying and brightening mask that purifies with yeast and also contains niacinamide.  Smells like Vegamite and beef bullion.  After using SK-II (which also uses yeast as a star ingredient), I haven’t been crazy about the whole yeast concept.  I’m 36, a mother of two, and have Asian skin that is combination (oily T-zone and normal to dry cheeks).  Apparently, the only response my skin has to yeast (in skincare lines) is itchiness and redness (all temporary, thank goodness).

(3)  Biologique Recherché P50 Lotion (No Phenol Version)–This is an exfoliating toner that has received much hype (just Google this product and you’ll find tons of reviews).  There are several versions of this toner (original, normal without phenol, sensitive skin, and mature skin).  I chose to use the version without phenol because of my two little ones as there’s been some controversy on the safety of its use.  This is BR’s star product and I have to say that I’m disappointed.  Perhaps it’s my skin type (and its reaction to the ingredients) and although it did provide excellent exfoliation, my face is itchy and red after every use (I’d hate to imagine what the phenol formula is like).

(4)  Biologique Recherché Crème Dermopurifante–This is a balancing and brightening moisturizer that has yeast and niacinamide as two of its star ingredients (starting to see a pattern here?).  It’s supposed to be mattifying and purge/clarify your skin of excess sebum as well as balance the pH of your skin.  So far, I have found that it does none of the above for my skin.  However, I’m willing to give it a chance by using it as a day treatment during downtime (as a mask for when my little boy is napping).

(5)  Kat Burki Vitamin C Nourishing Cleansing Balm–This is a cleansing balm that features Vitamin C and several cold pressed fruit oils as its star ingredients.  Even though I have combination skin (and I think this is more suitable for dry skin), I love it.  I love it so much that it has earned a permanent place in my skincare routine.  Results were immediate (skin was brighter and softer).  Yes, it’s essentially an expensive oil cleanser (great for removing makeup and sunscreen).  But it has the added benefit of brightening your skin (with 15% Vitamin C) and making it super soft.  To get a bang for your buck, I recommend using this as both an oil cleanser and a mask (your skin will thank you)–I massage it onto my face to remove any sunscreen or makeup, keep it on my face for about 20 minutes before rinsing it off, and then use a foam cleanser to remove any oily residue.  If you wear (a lot of) makeup daily (as I did when I was single), this may not be an economical product as you’d have to tissue off the first application and then reapply for the mask part of the regimen.  But since I only wear makeup on special occasions now, this balm is all I need to remove dirt, grime, and sunscreen from my face (having two kids under the age of 2 will do this to you).  And a little goes a long way.  Bottom line:  This product converted me into a Kat Burki lover.

(6)  Kat Burki Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream–This is a brightening moisturizer that uses 15 % Vitamin C and various cold pressed fruit oils as its star ingredients.  Some say that it’s too light to be used as a night cream but I say it’s perfect (again, I have combination skin with an oily T-zone).  It does not contain SPF and can be used day and/or night.  A fantastic moisturizer and may have just replaced my precious Crème de La Mer (gasp!).

My only complaint about the two Kat Burki products is the packaging–the consistency of both is such that they can and should be used with pumps (it would also be more sanitary and, thus, prolong shelf life).  Yes, the glass jars are pretty to look at but glass bottles with pumps would be more practical and user friendly.

As for stores, there are several that sell BR and Kat Burki but none offer free returns (except Nordstrom).  Plus, returns are only accepted for unopened items (except Nordstrom).  How would one know if a product irritates his/her skin without trying it first?  Not being able to return the BR products annoys me (since the line is only sold at spas and boutiques).  Glad it’s a moot point with the Kat Burki products (since they work fantastically on my skin).  For those who would like to try a line or product but also want the protection of being able to return items inappropriate for your skin, I recommend shopping at Nordstrom (as the store offers free returns, no questions asked).  Yes, I am an affiliate seller of Nordstrom but don’t shop there just because of that; shop there because you’re protected with your purchases no matter what (as long as you save your receipts).  To get the most value for your purchase (of any skincare/cosmetic line), buy the products you’d like to try from Nordstrom.  Then (after knowing what works for you), buy the products from their respective companies’ stores/websites (which tend to have more special offers/promotions/samples of the brand).

Review of AmorePacific (Cleanser & Exfoliator)

AmorePacific is fast becoming a household name in the West.  As Korea’s version of Estee Lauder, AmorePacific invented the cushion foundation and has several other award-winning products in its line.  I tried two items and here are my thoughts:

(1)  AmorePacific Treatment Foam Cleanser–With a combination of vitamin C, lactose, and fruit extracts, this cleanser buffs away fine lines and dead skin cells.  Good for normal to dry skin.

(2)  AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel–Hands down, this is the best exfoliator I have ever used in my life.  Ingredients include lactose and various plant and fruit extracts.  The beauty of this product is that not only does it exfoliate well, it is also extremely gentle as it is a powder (turn to foam with water) formula.  Great for all skin types.

Since I have acne-prone skin, the cleanser (although an excellent one) doesn’t make it to my permanent skincare line-up.  Perhaps it’s the acidity (which would make it more suitable for those with normal to dry skin).  The exfoliator (or peel) is definitely a keeper.

Review of SK-II

In my quest for the perfect post-partum and anti-aging skincare routine, I made a pit stop:  SK-II.  This Japanese skincare line has a cult following and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Drum roll…

(1)  SK-II Treatment Cleanser–This is truly an anti-aging cleanser (no ifs, ands, or buts).  The Pitera (SK-II’s power ingredient) immediately firms and treats fine lines.  The slight tingling reaffirms this.  Great for those with normal or dry skin.

(2)  SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion–Great toner for most skin types.  The Pitera (in all SK-II products) treats fine lines and spots while the lactic acid exfoliates and sloughs off dead skin cells.  Of the entire line, this is my favorite.

(3)  SK-II Cellumination Mask-In Lotion–This can be used as a toner and/or a mask (by itself or via a cloth sheet mask).  SK-II Cellumination products are designed to brighten skin tone and diminish spots.  The product definitely brightened my skin tone after a few uses but didn’t appear to have any other benefits.  Best for those with normal or dry skin.

(4)  SK-II Facial Treatment Essence–This serum is what put the brand on the map.  With the most concentration of Pitera of all SK-II products, the serum attacks lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone with just a few swipes of a cotton ball.  Wonderful for those with normal or dry skin.

(5)  SK-II Essential Power Eye Cream–If your skin is normal or dry and you can only buy one eye cream, this is it.  Armed with Pitera, this cream firms, tightens, treats, and moisturizes–it’s an all-in-one.

All in all, SK-II is a fantastic anti-aging line and is best for those with normal to dry skin.  Unfortunately, I have oily skin during the spring and summer months and combination skin during the fall and winter months.  If you’re acne-prone like I am, the Pitera (and perhaps all the acidity in the line) will likely exacerbate pimples and blackheads.

And so my search continues…