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 & Instagram Thank-You Giveaway

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.

Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask Review: Tested & Detested

Mid-week is the perfect time for a mini-review of the famous Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask.  (Update: my word counter tells me that "mini" review is a lie.  Eh, everything's relative!)  This mask is old news; it's a classic example of skincaretainment, and the product is more well-known for its entertainment value than the actual effects on the skin.  That's partly why I've avoided it until now, but it's summer and my skin is a slimy mess in this humidity so it's very ready for an occasional clay mask.  Why not one that inflates into a comically wide cloud of foam while on your face, making you look like a pixar character while doing double duty of first cleansing and clay mask style deep pore cleansing all in one go?

Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask product, box, lid, and spatula
There is an inner jar lid/seal to keep air from reacting to the product.
Sounds too good to be true, right?  Plus, lots of people have used this mask, including fellow Snailcast podcaster Fifty Shades of Snail, so I purchased a jar of it and give it a try.  Then I dropped all irritants out of my routine and tried it again.  Sometimes, you have to just have to hurt yourself twice to confirm something is bad news.

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients
  • What it did to my face
  • What I'd rather use instead

Before using this mask the second time, I skipped anything that would compromise my moisture barrier for at least a week: no acid exfoliants, no manual exfoliants, no tretinoin, nothing to weaken my skin barrier or make me more sensitive.  I wanted to make sure there was no chance the culprit was just piling clay on top of sensitive skin.  Unfortunately, it still left my skin screaming for mercy and I smothered its cries with snail gel to recover.

Milky Dress Vita C+ Powder Review & It's Time to Get Nerdy About Vitamin C

I'm a fan of acid.  For someone who used to view chemical exfoliants with fear and distrust, I've certainly done a complete about-face on the subject; if I was at a cosmetics convention and you slid up to me whispering "Pssst hey Snow, I've got a new form of BHA derived from a kind of tree in northern steppes of Europe, and it's got twice the efficacy with half the irritation of Salicylic acid.  It's the coolest thing to happen since Mandelic changed AHAs.  It's under this trench coat, meet me outside if you wanna see it." I very well might blithely follow you, excitedly chattering about whether it's also pH dependent and whether it's commercially available yet, trench coat notwithstanding.

In addition to having AHA (Alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (Beta hydroxy acid) in the "actives" category of my Skincare Wardrobe, I also have in my stable of acids a form of Vitamin C, called L-AA (L-ascorbic acid) and if you're a skincare fan, you've probably heard of the anti-aging powers of Vitamin C.  You've probably heard of the ridiculous $160+ price tag of some serums and expensive creams, the warnings to keep them away from light, air, and heat, making them difficult to use and prone to spoilage.

The version I use is a tenth of that cost, but it's just as annoying to use-- shuttling back and forth to the fridge, decanting small portions into other bottles, forgetting to use it for days on end because I do both my AM and PM routines half asleep, it's all aggravating.  It's tempting to latch onto other forms of Vitamin C which promise to provide the same effects but in stable formulations that won't have you pondering a mini-fridge for your skincare.  Lured by a demonstration on Korean beauty show Get It Beauty, I snatched up this powdered Vitamin C (SAP, aka Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), amazed at how convenient it looked.  A powder that could be mixed into any, yes any, current skincare product without worrying about pH dependency, wait times, or oxidization?  Yes please!  Get in my cart!

Except that it sucked.

Milky Dress Vita C+ Powder and Korean beauty product serum
On the left, the watery serum in which I mixed the powder, and on the right is said powder displayed on the spatula.
(By the way, if you are wondering what that gorgeous bottle is, you can read more about it here: The Bottle That Stole My Heart: Sooryehan Hyo Biyeon Concentrated Brightening Essence Review.)

In this post:

  • Product Details
  • What's the fuss about Vitamin C?
  • What I'd rather use instead

Like many things that seem too good to be true, this powder was highly disappointing although I'll freely admit that it may work really well for others.  Sadly I wasn't able to test it's long-term hyperpigmentation fading abilities vs a traditional L-AA serum, and while I certainly quickly formed an (irate) opinion on the product,  I felt so grumpy toward it that I wasn't ready to devote the time to research it properly.  Now that I've spent several nights squinting at PDFs and getting cockblocked by paywalls, I'm ready to get this off my to-do list.

Is K-Beauty for Everyone? Perspectives on Appropriation and Marketing


I have a confession: I've been in a bit of a skincare funk.  For a long time, I've blamed it on overwork-- working 60 hours a week has left me little time for luxuries like brushing my hair showering daily sleeping more than a few hours a night an elaborate skincare routine, but I've come to realize that it's much more than that.  I'm in a K-Beauty funk, meaning that I've been feeling conflicted and troubled every time I go to wash my face.  It's time for some soul-searching.

As K-Beauty has become more and more mainstream in the west, it's gone from being an ignored niche interest to a widely-marketed source of $$$ from all levels of the beauty industry, shifting from hipster-y hobbyists to an oversaturation of US-based resellers cannibalizing ideas while mega retailers like Sephora and Target stock sheet masks and snail creams.

You might think this is another one of those tired tropes of aforementioned hipster grumpy over their obscure finds becoming mainstream, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Actually, I'm absolutely thrilled that K-Beauty is in such international demand that Sulwhasoo recently launched a whopping 7 shades ranging from #11 to #33, a move which completely shocked a Korean friend of mine as she pointed out that most Korean brands feature only two shades (#21 and #23) and don't address [in her opinion] the shade needs of Koreans in Korea, let alone anyone outside of Korea.

Image from Sulwhasoo's Korean site showing 7 cushion shades
Image from Sulwhasoo's KR site
I'm quite happy that K-Beauty has grown so much in the 4 years that I've been blogging about it, because it's seen exponential growth and it's a totally different scene since the days where I had to use Google Translate to figure out what I was buying.

What troubles me is how it's being marketed, talked about, and presented.

In this post:

  • The trouble with K-Beauty marketing
  • Why I write about K-Beauty
  • 5 Korean women share their thoughts about K-Beauty on the global stage

There's nothing wrong with a little soul-searching to examine one's own motives and reasons for doing, well, anything.   But more important than what I have to say about it, is what the Korean women I know have to say about it, and I'm fortunate enough to have several sources just an email away for me to ask!

A Quick Note: Something Fun is Coming!

Don't panic, I'm not on hiatus; I'm going through some massive real-life changes that resulted in me being extremely overworked the last few weeks, as well as having a lot more free time for the rest of the summer.  Woo hoo!

In addition to having more free time after I emerge from catching up on 5+ years of lost sleep, I'll have the time to finish working on a serious post with several sources and some delicate topics, and I want to do it justice.  But first, sleep.  Lots of sleep.

Flowers and mysterious something
What could it beeeee?
In the meantime though, I wanted let you all know that are some exciting things upcoming, so if you aren't following me on Instagram, I'd recommend doing so -- even if (or especially if!) you're outside the US.

As always, you can also connect with me on Facebook or Twitter; I tend to be the most active on the latter when I have nonsensical things to say, so be warned, heh.

All the best,
-Cat

Ciracle Pimple Solution Pink Powder Review & What I Should Have Used Instead

I admit it; I've been procrastinating on reviewing this Ciracle pink powder for weeks months a long time.  It's a spot treatment, so it doesn't get consistent daily use, and that makes it difficult to test it to my usual standards.  I'm now almost done the bottle, though, and it's time for me to just throw in the towel and admit this product doesn't measure up to its predecessors.

Ciracle Pimple Solution Pink Powder Review
I managed to snap this before it rained, go me!
As you can see, I'm almost done this bottle so it's time to review this and get it off my To-Do list!

In this post:

  • What is a pink powder/drying lotion?
  • Product details
  • Why I didn't like it
  • What I'd rather use

This is my second pink powder product, and when I'm done writing this review, I'm going to run right back into the acne-thwarting arms of my first.