Multiple Skincare Steps: Neither Vanity nor Virtue

I've had a lot of thoughts percolating around in the last week about skincare and the relative virtues of a minimal, or maximized, skincare routine.  I'm not sure why people are getting caught up in debunking a multi-step routine lately, but sometimes it takes on an odd tone.  I think it's understandable that we are so quick to assign virtue (or vanity) to skincare, especially in those groups who have been influenced by a "skincare first, makeup second" philosophy, which is a key concept in K-Beauty.

It's not surprising that things veer into subconscious bias pretty quickly-- cosmetics are pretty intrinsically linked to vanity, and that gets caught up in societal constructs around attractiveness, worth, and virtue.

Sometimes skincare is just skincare, though, and I don't think we need all the baggage with it.

Example of minimal and maximized Korean skincare routines
Neither of these routines are a measure of virtue or vanity.  They're just skincare.
To this day, we repeat tales of Cleopatra's supposed cosmetic excesses as the pinnacle of legendary vanity, even as we add sheet masks with donkey milk and honey essences to our carts because hey, if donkey milk and honey were a favourite of hers, it's worth checking out?  As a counterpoint to makeup, which has always had connotations on the virtuousness of the wearer, skincare falls on a wide spectrum between the most basic of hygiene to the most expensive of indulgences, ensuring there's always going to be a sweet spot for everyone.

In this post:

  • Skincare first, makeup second: K-Beauty influence in western makeup
  • The 10+ step routine myth - it doesn't matter, let it go
  • Self-care, treat choself, and mindful spending

It seems as complex skincare routines become more common, what was once a necessary chore has achieved the same infamy as its cosmetic cousin, with judgements about vain excess and the backlash of virtuous minimalism cropping up beyond just makeup.

Tower of Empties: Empties, Discards, and Pretties

Last week, I mentioned in What's In My Stash: Forgotten Finds & Organization Overhaul that one of the last tasks I had on my to-do list was to tackle a giant box of empties.  I wasn't kidding; this thing is so massive it deserved its own post!  Behold the dragon, unslain:

Just imagine how big this box is, if my phone looks that tiny.  Click for huge size.
I admit I was a bit daunted, but I was determined get my office to 100% organized, so this box needed to be dealt with.  It contained a mash-up of empties tucked back in their boxes, packaging for products I'm currently using, empties orphaned from their boxes and boxes orphaned from their empties, products banished to the discard pile, and gorgeous product packaging worth keeping regardless of how I felt about the products inside.

There was also a staggering number of sheet mask boxes, which I haven't included in the photos because there would be no room for anything else.  That reminds me, I still need to inventory my sheet masks ... oh dear.  Still not at 100%  Another day, then. *shakes fist at the sky*

So without further ado, here's the Tower of Empties (at least what would fit) precariously perched in my office:

The tower of empties, discards, and prettily packaged products
It looks like so much less when it's all tidily arranged, no?  Ah wait, that's right, this is all that would fit without falling off.  Click for huge size.
Mmm, so many empties.  I've taken close-ups of each tier, and will be calling out some notable products from each.  They'll be numbered for ease of  "what the heck is that one 4 places from the left?!" identification.

In this post:

  • The "would not repeat" tier
  • The "gone but not forgotten" tier
  • The "so pretty I'm hoarding it" tier

Of course, now that I've managed to assemble this house of cards boxes and bottles in order to take photos of it, I need to pack it all away because our struggle has reduced my office to rubble.

Onward to the goods!

What's In My Stash: Forgotten Finds & Organization Overhaul

This weekend I finally battled my stash, and I believe I've succeeded in wrestling it into submission.  I may have ragged fingernails, skinned knuckles, and more bruises than I want to contemplate, but after a weekend of hauling around boxes, sorting piles of products, and late-night furniture assembly, I've finally managed to properly set up my stash!

By that, I mean that I wanted a way for me to visually see my skincare stash at a glance instead of having to go digging through drawers and boxes, because I have a lot of interesting things that I just don't pull out and ogle nearly enough.  Like these:

Limited edition IOPE duochrome case and Sulwhasoo 2004 Shine Classic compact
IOPE, why did you have to change your refill inserts right after I bought this limited edition case for a giveaway?
I'm not usually too concerned with the state of my stash organization, because I have it organized in a spreadsheet that keeps track of it all for me, but my home office had become overrun with partially-unpacked orders, various photography trappings, and a thriving colony of packing materials that seemed to be breeding in every corner.

I'm good at keeping track of what I buy (that spreadsheet, yo) but I somehow manage to forget to enter the things I receive as gifts, either from friends or "gifts with purchase" which arrived in store orders.

In this post:

  • The result: behind the scenes in my home office & tamed stash
  • Interesting finds from the depths of my stash: "Oh hey, I should totally use this!"
  • Adventures in stash wonderland: inside drawers, shelves, refrigerator, & my bathroom counter
  • What's left on my to-do list

I was amazed at how little space it took up once I sorted through everything and pulled out all the empties, boxes, and discards-- I have no idea how large the average beauty blogger's stash is, but compared to the jaw-dropping stash videos I've seen, mine is downright tiny!  Bless you, spreadsheet, for keeping me in check, even if you can't display all the pretty packaging.  Time for lots of photos!

Winter is Coming: Plotting My K-Beauty Skincare Routine for Colder Weather

It's hot right now.  Humid.  Muggy.  Sticky.  Sweaty.  My current routine has 2.5 steps, because I can't stand moving around a lot while I cleanse, and forget product multi layering.  I haven't posted a summer routine this year, because there's been very little routine to post.  I've been using a cleanser, a BHA exfoliant, and sometimes when I'm extra motivated, a chilled sheet mask.

Essences, serums, hydrating toners, rich sheet masks, creams, oils?  Urgh, I'm feeling slimy just thinking about them, yet that's exactly what I'm doing - thinking ahead.  Even though it's still 80+ degrees with ultra-high humidity that leaves me waking in a puddle of my own sweat, I've been plotting and planning my autumn season skincare routine.

Korean beauty products, acid exfoliants, Curology
The only sign of the coming colder weather is shorter days and rapidly fading light.
Planning ahead allows me to leisurely research and contemplate what products I might like to try, figure out where they would go in my testing schedule, comparison shop, and mull over the contents of my cart.  I'm big on mindfulness when it comes to beauty, and this is the equivalent of shopping while you're full, instead of waiting until you're hungry and just want all the things.

In this post:

  • The seasonal skincare approach
  • New products I'm adding into my routine
    • Cleansers, actives, hydrators, creams, sleeping packs
  • What I'm looking to add to my routine
    • Sheet masks, mists, and sunscreens

I have no idea how many of these are going to work out, but it feels good to have some new product testing on the horizon, instead of endless repeats of the same minimalist routine.  Bring on the cold weather, I am beyond ready!

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser Review: We Tried, But It's Time to Break Up

Yep, that's right, a review of the low pH non-foaming Milky Jelly cleanser from Glossier.  Your eyes do not deceive you; this is a non-K-Beauty, non-Asian product, despite my overall efforts to keep my blog content consistent.  I do try, and use, western products regularly, I just rarely post about them.  Since I'm all about that low pH cleanser life, and this cleanser was getting good reviews from other K-Beauty fans, it's been on my radar for quite a while.

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
We're visiting family out of state, who are bemused at me hauling around a giant white table top for photos.
While hemming and hawing over whether to grab it, my fellow Snailcaster Tracy of Fanserviced-b offered to send me a bottle since she had some spare store credit, I thought, why not?  Let's see what the fuss is about.  Now that I'm almost halfway through the bottle, it's time for a review!

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients & thoughts on the hype
  • Demo as a dry & wet (first and second) cleanser vs double cleansing
  • What I'd rather use instead

This review is going to be fairly photo heavy, because I had to pack a lot of stuff to work on this review while we were out of state for the long weekend and then felt obligated to use it, haha.

Cosrx BHA Power Liquid Exfoliant Review & My Descent Into BHA Research Madness

This has been a difficult post.  It was supposed to be merely a review of the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid with a delicious little snack science on the side, like I did in Milky Dress Vita C+ Powder Review & It's Time to Get Nerdy About Vitamin C. Fun, crisp, & fluffy, with a satisfying aftertaste.

Unfortunately, this was not to be; I've spent days hunting down studies, tracking the muddled pawprints of sources in roving bands of reference herds, stalking my prey through stacks of marginally related papers, and all I've managed to uncover is some seedy research practices and what appears to be a multi-decade ongoing game of academic telephone.

Thankfully, there's more to products than just their INCI profile, and having gone through a good four or so empties of the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, a daily BHA (beta hydroxy acid) chemical exfoliant, I feel confident in discussing my personal experiences with this product even if the exact details of its scientific pedigree remains murky.

Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid beta hydroxy acid exfoliant
Emptying a bottle and cracking into a fresh one is so satisfying!
Ultimately, reviews are (or should be) our thoughts on products that we've used, and I've certainly used this enough, by both time and volume, to be ready to review it; I just never did so as there's already excellent reviews of this product out there, such as fellow Snailcast podcaster Fifty Shades of Snail, and Sheryll of The Wanderlust Project.  However, I was keen to do another review-with-a-slice-of-science post, since I enjoyed the last one so much, so I decided to take advantage of our household's as-yet-unexpired university library subscription and hit the research papers.  I sort of regret that, but we'll plumb those depths of despair later.

In this post:

  • Why chemical exfoliants are swoon-worthy
  • Product details
  • Ingredients & short review
  • A research overview on the benefits of BHA and salicylic acid
    • BHAs don't do what we think they do
    • Why use BHA at all?
    • Photoprotection, not photosensitivity
    • Does it work on acne?
  • Final thoughts

I'm going to keep the review portion short and sweet, so I can focus on the results of my research efforts; this way you can bail out of the rabbit hole if you're not into descending into nerdy madness.

Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion #13 Review & Swatches

I used to hate cushions.  I didn't like the unsanitary concept, the limited shade ranges, the high price point and low product volume, the lack of samples for colour matching before purchase, and after the DIY cushion method was a hot mess, I gave up on the idea as just a runaway hype train.

I was wrong, kinda.  Like their BB cream counterparts, shade ranges are limited although there are signs that's improving, and I was relieved to hear that cushions are apparently formulated with the maximum preservative concentration possible to offset the hygiene concerns.  There are now cushions for every budget and one really shouldn't be using them for longer than a few months anyway, but unfortunately there's still a dearth of options should you want to test to see if a cushion shade will fit you before you buy.  There are adorable tiny cushions out there, but they're rare.

That means swatches are critical to the "sight unseen" buying process of cushions.  As fellow Snailcast podcaster Tracy of Fanserviced-b put it during our episode on cushions,"people who swatch cushions are first in line for heaven" so it's time for me to pay it forward.

Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion #13 refill and limited edition peony case
Insert in #13 via a buying service + Limited Edition Peony cushion purchased from 11st
One of the things I love about cushions is the ability to swap in different inserts but keep the same case; I managed to get my paws on one of the 2014 limited edition Sulwhasoo Peony cushion cases last year, although I purchased it in a shade I knew was wrong for me.  That's no barrier-- I simply purchased some refill inserts and swapped those in instead.  You can read more on how to use 11st here: Level Up Your K-Beauty Obsession: a Guide to 11st + My 1st 'Real' Cushion!

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients
  • Comparison swatches of Mac NC15, Sulwhasoo Perfecting Brightening #17, and Sulwhasoo Perfecting #13
  • Cushion demo & why I shouldn't apply makeup in my bathroom
  • Instagram 10k thank-you giveaway details

In an effort to be thorough, I'll be providing both arm swatches comparing the Sulwhasoo cushions I have next to Mac NC15, and also face swatches as well, so you can see the coverage, finish, and what it looks like on a real face.  When I finish this review, I'm going to try to drink away the image of my bare skin in HD.  Clearly I need to get back on the PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) fading wagon after slacking off on actives for the summer.