First Impressions: 5 K-Beauty Sunscreens for Summer

I get asked "what makes Korean beauty products better?" all the time, and the answer is always the same: they're not somehow magically better, because you can find good, bad, and mediocre products anywhere. They are quite innovative however, and where Asian cosmetics (including Korean beauty) really shine (in my eyes) is sunscreen.

If I could send a message to myself 10 years ago, before I moved to the US and into the desert, I'd tell myself about Asian sunscreens. I used to think I couldn't wear sunscreen, period! It gave me terrible skin reactions and felt unbearable. I got away with skipping sunscreen due to the relative weak sunlight in my region of Canada, but when I moved far south to an area of Texas that gets sandstorms, premature aging from epic sun damage happened fast.

Korean sunscreen
I've rudely plunked my tray in the middle of the local wild bunny buffet

If I'd known there existed cosmetically elegant sunscreens that wouldn't cause my skin to erupt in painful breakouts within hours, I'd still be enjoying the same wrinkle-free smoothness the women in my family normally have until their 40's. Not to mention a lowered risk of, y'know, skin cancer.

In this post

  • First impressions of 5 sunscreens from Goodal, Innisfree, & Make P:rem

I have reviewed one of these already, and I'm currently testing some of the others. Full reviews will come in the future, but after people on my Instagram expressed interest in a first impressions post, here they are!

Balancing Ethics, Originality, and Sustainability: Thoughts for New K-Beauty Bloggers

So you think you might want to start a K-Beauty blog, because you're passionate about the products, you've learned so much during your personal journey, and you want to connect with others like you; and you should. Those are all great reasons to start a blog in our little Asian beauty product niche, and there are such a staggering number of products (even if you were to stick to just K-Beauty) that there's an endless supply of new products to review and discuss.

Maybe you imagine yourself drinking tea in a bright but cozy corner of your home, feverishly writing about how much you loved (or hated) a largely unknown product, so that other enthusiasts can benefit from your experience.

Beauty blogging tools, laptop, tea, sheet mask
Laptop, tea, sheetmask, check. This is not what my workspace really looks like; it's missing me curled up in my chair, sans pants, balancing my laptop desk on my knees while I forget to drink my tea until it's cold. This is why I use tea cups with lids.

The truth is, writing posts claims only a small percentage of blogging time. The vast majority of the time required to run a blog is filled with behind-the-scenes tasks, and this has lead to the burn out of many a developing blogger.

Earlier this year, fellow The Snailcast podcaster Tracy of Fanserviced-b wrote a no-holds-barred daily breakdown of A Week in the Life of a Beauty Influencer, which made me exhausted in empathy just to read it. This post is about what pitfalls I've encountered in the last 5 years, and my advice to new bloggers on how to dodge them.

In this post:

  • Originality: find your voice
  • Sustainability: feast and famine
  • Ethics: shops, brands, and monetization
  • Upkeep: photography, webhosting, and social media

Why am I writing this post? Since we're talking about behind-the-scenes transparency here, it's because: 1. I've been tinkering with this post in my drafts for months, 2. I was inspired to write it by Tracy's post, 3. I am working on several product reviews that are still in the testing phase, 4. I have a product I want to drag back to hell but I don't want back-to-back negative reviews, and 5. because I see a lot of new bloggers falling into avoidable hazards out of inexperience.

I'm learning constantly thanks to the kindness of others, and I want to pay it forward.

Goodal Mild Protect Natural Filter Sun Fluid SPF50+ PA++++ Review: When You Need to Express Your Inner Mime

Sunscreen: like a seat belt, it's something we endure because the alternative possibly leads to death or disfigurement. Wearing it isn't optional, so the best one can hope for is that it's as unobtrusive as possible, but at minimum the seat belt doesn't mash your bosom when you wear it. This sunscreen isn't it. Sunscreens should be cosmetically elegant, meaning light and comfortable on the skin, and they should have full-spectrum high sun protection (SPF 50+, PA+++ or higher), with minimal white cast.

Goodal Mild Protect Natural Filter Sun Fluid SPF50+ PA++++
I was definitely feeling the hanbang-inspired packaging this came in
This is pretty easy if you use chemical (also known as 'organic') UV filters, but as they cause skin irritation and reactions for many people (including yours truly), many people with sensitive skin can only use physical (also known as 'inorganic') UV filters. Some of which are white. Literally white pigment. Nanoparticle forms of physical filters are supposed to have less white cast, but there's some debate about their safety. The point of this dry paragraph is that physical sunscreens with minimal white cast are very rare. People like me hunt them in murky corners of the internet and have underground swap networks for decants.

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients
  • Swatches on NC10 and NC30 skin
  • What I'll repurchase instead
  • Final thoughts & why I'll use it up

I had high hopes for this one, because I loved the Goodal Mild Protect Natural Filter Sun Cream SPF50+ PA+++, so surely this almost-the-same-name-but-one-more-PA-rating sunscreen should also be good? Are you looking for the perfect undead base makeup-and-sunscreen combo for your daytime Hallowe'en beach party or possibly playing Marley's Ghost in an afternoon matinée of A Christmas Carol at an outdoor theatre?

No? Then the Goodal Mild Protect Natural Filter Sun Fluid ain't what you're looking for. I'm a Mac NC10 and it looks white as hell on me. I had to double check that it wasn't meant to be a brightening cream. Re-reading the marketing copy while writing this review, I'm beginning to suspect that "light finish" isn't a reference to the texture, it's an invitation to a vampire cosplay. You'll see what I mean. *cue ominous organ music and the flapping of bats*

Guest Post: Skincare Swap Experiment with Fifty Shades of Snail

You know what happens when skincare bloggers get together? Shenanigans. As some of you already guessed from our Instagram posts, I've dragged my fellow snail Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail into some skincare routine-swapping mischief.  You'll find a link to my companion post at the end of this guest post!

My Skin Is a Spoiled Princess: Fiddy's Skincare Routine Swap Story

By guest blogger Fiddy of Fifty Shades of Snail

One of the things that alarms me the most in my blogging life is a reader's declaration that they've decided to duplicate my routine all at once. To me, that's never a good idea. Everyone's skin is different, and no one person's routine should be a template for anyone else.

Which is why, when the lovely Cat asked me if I wanted to swap routines for a few days, I hesitated for a moment, pondered all the ways that things could go wrong, and enthusiastically agreed. What better way could there be to demonstrate the pitfalls of copying someone else's routine format, or to learn that maybe we're wrong and one way really is better than the other?

Who am I and why are we doing this?

This project was inspired by a Refinery29 piece in which two women swapped their makeup routines--and actual makeup products--for clicks and funsies. Cat and I, being sane and germ-averse, and also impatient to get started, decided that instead of swapping actual products, we'd adopt each others' routine steps. This is a record of what happened to me on Cat's routine.

Refinery29's makeup swap video featuring one another's used makeup. Ugh.
Screencap  featuring swapping used makeup from Refinery29s makeup swap video
For those of you who don't know me, either for real or in the way that Mariah doesn't know people, I'm Fiddy, one of Cat's fellow Snailcasters. I usually confine my thoughts to Fifty Shades of Snail. I'm here today at Cat's invitation to share my experience using her routine format, while she's currently camped out on my blog.

You guys are probably already familiar with Cat's skin, which is dehydrated, oily-combo, and prone to acne and clogged pores. Mine, on the other hand, leans dry. I don't have many problems with clogs or breakouts; instead, I'm battling aging and hyperpigmentation.

As you can imagine, our routines look a little different.

Cosrx Low pH Gel Cleanser Review & Demo: My Acid Mantle is a Cheap Date

There's little not to like about the Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser; it's low pH, it's cheap, it foams, and it comes in a huge tube.  I'm into that.  It's not a perfect product, but the flattened carcass of my current tube is a pretty eloquent testament on its own:

Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
I've wrung every drop out of this tube.
It's also popped up in many routine post on my Instagram, in my Beginner Friendly: Simple K-Beauty Starter Kits for 4 Skin Types series, and in several posts.  I've been living the low pH life since diving into the studies on pH in Why the pH of Your Cleanser Matters back in 2014, but low pH is just the first criteria needed to earn a spot on my sink.

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients & gel 1st cleanser demo
  • Review & foaming 2nd cleanser demo

After I had to engage a bunch of whacking, flapping, squeezing, and scraping to get it out, I realized that I was rapidly running out of product with which to photograph for a review.  Time to get it done!

A Reluctant Review: Paula's Choice BHA Exfoliant

In last week's post Skincare SOS: My Recovery Routine When I've Been Bad, I mentioned I've been using the Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA to help undo the results of neglecting my skin.  While most of my Skincare Wardrobe is comprised of Korean beauty products and cosmetics from Asia, I can't deny that western skincare is still in the lead when it comes to acids.  Specifically, acid exfoliants, chemical peels, and prescription-strength "bring your skin to Snesus" topicals like azelaic acid and retinol.

Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA
Studies courtesy of my research frenzy for Cosrx BHA Power Liquid Exfoliant Review & My Descent Into BHA Research Madness
However, with a name like "Paula's Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA", you would think it was a K-Beauty product, right next to other "ridiculously long product name" titleholders like the "Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Borabit Ampoule" and ... well, too many others to list.  Interestingly, Paula's Choice does make Asia-exclusive versions of their products, but this isn't one of them.

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients & how to apply
  • How I was lured away from my usual BHA
  • The good and the bad

 I'm somewhat reluctantly reviewing this product, because I'm not a big fan of the company, but dodgy science demos and flip-flopping shade parades aside, they make some gooood acids.

Skincare SOS: My Recovery Routine When I've Been Bad

I'm in the dermal doghouse.  My skin is in crisis: dry and greasy, flakes everywhere, clogged pores overrun with sebaceous filaments & blackheads, dull & uneven texture, every wrinkle in sharp relief, and coated in a disgusting shell of dead skin mixed with sebum and who knows what else.   I'm sorry, skin; I know I've done you wrong.

Today, as I apologized to my skin for neglecting it for ... weeks, really, it occurred to me that rather than reviewing the cleanser I was about to use in my "bringing my skin back from exile" routine, I should talk about that instead.  So today's post is all about how to bring skin back from the brink of despair.

Lineup of Korean Beauty and Taiwanese Beauty products
Farewell, lovely things on the right, until this skincare penance is over.
Obviously, everyone's skin is different, and what works for me isn't going to work for everyone, but it's not the specific products which are important, but their function, so anything that fills that role will work!

In this post:

  • Routine to recover from long-term neglect; illness, depression, or skincare ennui
    • Cleansing, re-balancing, and dealing with breakouts
  • Products I avoid while I'm nursing my skin back to health

As tempting as it is to go hard with every problem solver in your Skincare Wardrobe to bring your skin up to speed, resist the urge for instant gratification.  It will only bring woe-- and breakouts, more flakes, and possibly permanent damage.  We're playing the long game, and patience will be rewarded.