Product Review: Leaders Insolution Vita Brightening Renewal Mask

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The thing about acne-prone skin is that sometimes you have to cause a breakout to prevent a worse breakout, or a less-expected one. Inevitably, when you do a treatment that’s meant to improve acne, it gets a little worse before it gets better. Why? I’m not entirely sure, though I’m guessing the dermatologists of the world have a good explanation. My best guess is that all that oil and inflamed skin is just hiding under the surface, and when you do anything to get your skin cells to turn over more quickly, it all comes to the top and you get a breakout. Again, definitely not a dermatologist. You should ask one of them why this happens.

This Leaders Insolution mask came in my final PinkSeoul box before I moved to Germany, and I was saving it for a special occasion. It’s not that I can’t get my subscription boxes here, but it would take a LOT longer for them to ship, and also I now have access to the Etude House website, which ships to Europe but not the US! I plan on spending my skin care money there and on Lush.de, for at least a little while.

The ‘special occasion’ I picked to use this mask was ‘I wanted a nice, hot bath and a sheet mask.’ I didn’t say it had to be really special. The fact that I have a decent-sized bath tub is occasion enough for me.

I really liked the fit of this mask. It stuck right to my face and didn’t slip or try to peel off at all. There’s something satisfying about the masks that turn really translucent and just adhere to my skin; it’s weirdly satisfying. The mask felt great while it was on, no weird tingling like I’d expect from something with a load of vitamin C in it.

When I took it off, I realized that I probably wouldn’t need to do any other moisturizing that night! The leftover essence was coating my skin so thoroughly that I could tell it was going to take forever to soak in, so I skipped my night cream and just patted the essence in as best I could. It felt a little heavy on my skin, but I went to bed and told myself I’d wash extra thoroughly the next morning.

Surprisingly enough, I actually did get up and wash my face really well! I’m just not good at it in the mornings, guys, we all have our flaws. My face felt fine the next day, not overly-moisturized, and not tight or dry. However, I did notice that my persistent chin acne had been drawn out by the mask. Ugh. It almost looked like I’d gotten a milder version of a skin peel, so whatever was being covered up by my top layer of skin was now exposed and needing attention.

Like I said, sometimes if I use a product ‘for blemishes,’ it causes a breakout that I then have to treat. But if I look at my skin under just the right lighting, I can see that those problem spots are already there – they’re just deep under the surface. Sometimes it’s good to draw them out so I can treat them effectively, rather than pretending they’re not there until something weird happens and I get a breakout unexpectedly. It seems counterintuitive, causing a breakout just so you can treat it, but remember that your skin is more than just the surface part that people see every day, and if you want to keep your skin healthy, you have to treat the stuff way deep down too. The vitamin C in this mask did a great job of removing some dead skin cells (a constant problem for me), and revealing the skin beneath that needed some TLC. It couldn’t have gotten said TLC if it was still covered up by all that dead skin. I’ll call this one a win.

Would I buy the Leaders Insolution mask again? I certainly wouldn’t kick it out of the bathroom if one showed up. At $5 each, it’s a mid-range mask, so I could see picking up a few of their products as a treat for myself. It’s a great mask for clarifying skin, but I would mentally prepare myself for a possible breakout if I were you – you might not know what’s going on down on those lower skin layers until they’re pulled back. But once you know, you can treat it! Here’s to better, healthier skin.

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Product Review: Tatcha’s The Essence

You knew I’d be back with more Tatcha stuff, right? Of course you did!

Full disclosure: I’m not working for Tatcha, but when I did my last write-up about their products, Vicki was kind enough to send me a box of skin care gear. So this review, and a couple of future ones, are from products I got in that box. I’m so grateful to Vicki for her generosity, and for taking the time to read my blog!

We all love a good essence, right? Light moisture, preps your skin for treatments, and a lot of them have cool botanical ingredients that soothe, refine, or clarify your skin. If you love Asian beauty, you know that essence is an indispensable step in your skin care routine.

And Tatcha knows this too, which is why they developed The Essence. I got a travel-sized bottle in my gift box from them, and get this: it lasted me at least two months.

Two MONTHS from a travel size! This is the thing about Tatcha: their products are expensive, but you use so little at a time that they last for ages. And their full-sized essence is enormous, so it might last you the better part of a year.

The high points: The Essence has a very mild scent, almost imperceptible, so once again this is a good product if you don’t want to smell perfumey all day. It also absorbs COMPLETELY. A lot of essences I’ve tried seem to just sit on top of my skin, or take forever to finally soak in, but The Essence really absorbs well, and it doesn’t leave behind any kind of film or oily feeling.

Here’s the thing, though: if you’re already using the full Tatcha system, like I am…I don’t know that you *need* to add The Essence to your lineup. I just didn’t notice any additional changes in my skin from using it. Yes, if my skin was feeling a little tight in the mornings, putting it on under my sunscreen helped me feel more balanced throughout the day. But as far as tackling my acne, redness, or clogged pores? It didn’t do a lot that the Dual Cleanse wasn’t already doing.

Now, if you have super dry skin, you may well feel differently about this product (and let me know if you do). It also claims to have great anti-aging properties, but again, that’s not where my skin is at right now. But Tatcha’s product line is so carefully balanced, I wasn’t really needing to use an essence every day if I was already using the Tatcha cleansers and moisturizer. My acne was already clearing up, and it didn’t get worse when I ran out of The Essence, because I was still using the cleansing duo.

So do you need to run out and buy this right now? Personally, much as I love all things Tatcha, I wouldn’t call this product ‘essential.’ I would say that if you need a new essence, it absorbs well and is very lightly moisturizing, so it will certainly do the job without competing with your sunscreen or makeup. It would be an excellent complement to a winter skin regimen for those Fledglings who suffer from dryness when it gets cold out. But for me? The rest of the Tatcha line was already doing a fantastic job for my skin, so I didn’t feel the need to add to it, even with another product from the same line.

Right, I’m off to Oktoberfest! I’ll have a sheet mask review for you weekend after next, so be on the lookout for that one. Tschüss!

Product Review: Skin Food Wash-Off Rice Mask

Hallo from Germany, Fledglings! That’s right, my husband, dogs, and I have relocated to Deutschland for his work, and I fully intend to continue the blog from here – hopefully with some excellent French and German skin products to review for you, in addition to my K-beauty first love. If the posting time is a little different, sorry about that; I’ll do my best to adjust for the time difference and still get a blog to you every other week for your Saturday-morning reading enjoyment.

Okay, housekeeping done! Let’s talk about this mask, because it needs discussing. Most Asian beauty aficionados know about the Skin Food brand, but I’d never tried their products. I was worried this one would be too mild to have an impact on my skin – or worse, too rich and cause a breakout.

When you open the jar, the mask is kind of the consistency of rice porridge that’s been in the fridge. ‘Cool,’ I thought, ‘I’ve heard rice is good for the skin.’ It is a little bit funky in the texture department once you put it on your hands, not gonna lie. It’s not gritty like an exfoliating mask, but it’s definitely not smooth either. Again, think porridge, and you’ve got a good idea of how it feels.

The smell is really mild, which is fitting for something as simple and nourishing as a rice mask. I have to wonder why K-beauty products are either ‘mostly unscented’ or ‘holy crap my face is perfume.’ There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground here. This mask is definitely one of the ‘mostly unscented’ ones, which I love.

So, how’d it work? I know that’s why you’re here, but I’ve strung you along with consistency descriptions. Bad Bird.

Short answer: it’s like a hug for your face in a jar.

Longer, less-weird answer: this is the most soothing mask I’ve ever used, and y’all know I love to mask. Since it’s a wash-off, I use it in the shower, after my cleansers. Rinse my face, smear on a generous layer, then leave it to sit as I finish my shower. It has a little bit of an exfoliating property, but mostly it’s been great for calming and soothing my summer/travel-stressed skin. After I dry off and finish my skin routine, my face feels cooler and less inflamed. It even calms down some of the redness I have issues with on occasion.

Pro Tip: put the Skin Food mask on your neck as well. You should put all your normal skin products on your neck as well as your face, but this one feels especially nice.

I would absolutely buy this again, especially in the summer. If your skin, like mine, just needs to calm the heck down sometimes, this is a good way to achieve that. It would be great for almost any skin type, and it fits really nicely into a simple or complex skincare regimen. Definitely add the Skin Food Wash-Off Rice Mask to your beauty shopping list.

Product Review: Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner

There’s something about the heat of summer that calls for a really good toner. Maybe it’s because my skin is so oily that I have to use some really deep cleansers this time of year, so my skin’s pH is always in need of some balance. Or maybe it’s because I have to use such light moisturizers to keep from looking like a frosted sheet cake, so that pre-moisturizing spritz helps the lighter stuff stay effective but not heavy.Either way, PinkSeoul always delivers in the summer months with light and refreshing goodies, and this toner is no exception.Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner (which I got in my subscription box but the linked site, OhLolly, looks like I’m gonna be on there a lot more in the future) can do double duty as a toner and as an as-needed face mist. Hello summer travel essential. It’s botanical-based and is made for skin that gets hot, red, or inflamed easily, so basically it was made for me – thanks guys. This toner doesn’t really have a scent at all, so if you’re sensitive to fragrances, this might be a good product to try out. The best part about it for me is how quickly it absorbs – it soaks right in, but my skin feels a little softer and more hydrated, not dried out like some spray toners will do. Since it dries so readily, it’s also nice and cooling on summer skin. Remember that toner is supposed to balance your skin’s pH after cleansing, so you don’t need anything alcohol-based that’s going to strip your skin. If you’re cleansing properly, you don’t need to remove anything else after that step.I’m planning on taking this mist on the plane with me when we fly out in a couple weeks – assuming I can make it fit in my quart-sized bag. (#SkinCareProbs) Plane air is awful for skin. I just learned that it’s heavily filtered, so it’s not germy air, but it is really, really dry, so I’m going to try and bring a sheet mask and some face mist to keep from looking as haggard as I’ll feel when we finally get there. It might be too big of a bottle, but if so I’ll take one of my other mists because you gotta hydrate when you’re traveling. That’s the point I’m trying to make here.If your skin gets really ‘hot’ in the summer, with redness, oil, and inflammation, I hope you’ll give Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner a try. And if you’ve tried anything else from the Pyunkang Yul line, let me know what you think of it in comments! I might review some more of their products in the future.

Product Review: Tony Moly Egg Pore Tightening Cooling Pack

I got a nifty mask in my PinkSeoul box this month! I love Tony Moly products; they're good quality, not too spendy, and their packaging is ~*adorable*~.

This mask came at a good time for my skin. I've been using a cleansing regimen that I fully intend to review for you soon, and since it's made for acne-prone skin, it's been pulling up all those deep-set breakouts that were hiding under the surface and making them a lot more inflamed and visible as they clear up properly. When this mask came in, my face was in need of some extra soothing.

Like I said, the packaging on the cooling pack is super cute – it looks like an egg! This is appropriate, because the mask contains kaolin clay and powdered egg shell. Both have a drawing and tightening effect on the skin, and you'll find kaolin in other clay face masks on the market, mostly the ones designed to treat oily or acne-prone skin. When I first opened the package, I thought, 'Man, there's not much in here!' But it was kind of an optical illusion – the packaging has a decent bit of empty space in the top of the 'egg,' which makes it look a little empty even though the bottom half is full of product. I didn't need to use much more than what was stuck to the lid to cover my whole face, so I anticipate getting a good few uses out of this before it runs out.

To use the mask, I washed and dried my face and put on some essence to help the mask soak in. Then I just smeared it on with clean fingers! Definitely get your hair out of the way before you use this; the mask has a thick consistency (because clay), and it's a little tricky to get washed off if it gets in your hairline.

As you can see, there's no need to cake it on – a thin layer will do just fine. I paid extra attention to those really inflamed areas, making sure they got a good coating. The mask doesn't drip or run, so it was easy to finish getting ready for bed while it set for about fifteen minutes. True to the name, just after it goes on it feels cool! It's a refreshing feeling, especially in the heat of summer. After the fifteen minutes were up, I washed it off with warm water, which didn't take too much effort. I like it when clay masks are easy to remove; I don't want to scrub for another fifteen minutes just to take it off! You might want to use a washrag to get any bits that do wander into your hairline.

After rinsing, my skin felt fresh and clean! You can see the acne on my chin in the above photo – that's a breakout cluster that comes back over and over, and the cleanser I'm using right now is working overtime to get it healed up properly instead of just temporarily calming it down. I followed the mask with my eye cream and night moisturizer and hit the hay for the night.

The photo above is from the next morning. Look how much paler that chin breakout looks! It also felt flatter and less inflamed, and the pores on my nose were noticeably smaller. My skin didn't feel overly dry, which is always a worry with clay masks. My normal moisturizer was the perfect follow-up for this. If your skin is drier than mine, you might want to use a more nourishing sleep pack to keep from getting too dry after using this mask.

The Tony Moly Egg Pore Tightening Cooling Pack is a great product for oily skin, acne, or large/clogged pores. It smells pretty neutral, it has adorable packaging, and it left my skin feeling soothed and refreshed in the midst of a serious acne cleanse. If summer heat and oil has your skin in a tizz, give this mask a try to calm everything down.

Product Review: Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask

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Oh, Mizon. Your products never fail to be affordable and effective, which is why you remain one of my favorite K-Beauty brands. Since we talked about the glorious luxury skin care brand Tatcha last blog, I thought I would review a favorite of mine from one of the less pricey lines this time. There are definitely products that are worth dropping some cash on, but there are also some that work great and don’t cost as much. I recommend finding a good mix of both – spend money on the products that go above and beyond for your skin, and enjoy saving money when you find a great product that’s more affordable for you.

To that end, I bring you Mizon’s Good Night White Sleeping Mask. As the name implies, it’s a sleep pack that you put on as the final step of your nighttime skin routine. Since my skin is on the oily side, I use this in place of my moisturizer, but if your skin tends to be dry, you could probably use your regular nighttime moisturizer and then the Good Night White mask.

This isn’t a ‘mask’ like you think of a sheet or mud mask. It soaks into your skin like a lotion, so you can sleep without getting your pillowcase goopy.

However.

You do need to make absolutely sure you’re washing your face the next morning if you put this on at night. It’s a very heavy moisturizer, and it’s very nourishing, so you don’t want to leave residue of it under your makeup or sunscreen all day. If you’re a lazy morning person, first off let’s be friends, and second off you might want to use this sleep pack on a Friday or Saturday night, so that you can take time and do your full skin routine the next morning and make sure you remove the sleep pack properly. As congested as my skin can get, it’s definitely a job for actual face wash and water, not a cleansing wipe.

So let’s talk about the ‘whitening’ label in K-Beauty. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s important to remember that when a K-Beauty product is labeled ‘whitening,’ they’re not talking about ‘skin bleach.’ Those Korean skin care models have fair skin because of genetics and staying out of the sun; they’re not buying chemicals to suck all the color out of their skin. So don’t worry about this being some kind of harsh skin treatment meant to ‘whiten’ you.

When K-Beauty products talk about ‘whitening’ properties, I think it translates better in English as ‘balancing.’ This product, and many others in the K-Beauty world, are designed to balance your skin tone, evening out dark or red spots and giving you a smooth, even complexion.

So, did it work for me? Well, yeah! There wasn’t some Disney-movie overnight transformation or anything, but I definitely noticed that the redness in my cheeks and my dark spots from acne were less noticeable, and that my skin looked smoother and brighter. Again, I didn’t look any paler or ‘whiter,’ because that’s not the point of these products, it just looked like the uneven coloring in my face had faded to a more even tone, which made me look pretty refreshed for someone who just woke up.

Personally, I don’t use this every single day. My redness and dark spots aren’t that bad, although both will flare up from time to time with hormone cycles or stress. During those times, I’ll go ahead and treat myself by using the Good Night White for a night or two, to get my skin to calm back down. For me it’s more like a treatment than a regular moisturizer. But hey, I could definitely see using it every night for a while if I had a lot of redness, or if my skin needed that kind of deep, nourishing moisture on a regular basis.

I came across this product in my PinkSeoul box, and while it’s not something I would have gone out of my way to buy, I’m glad I got my hands on it. It is a good moisturizer for evening out skin tone, and a nice, deep moisturizer for winter or for when stress or hormones make your skin freak out and need some extra soothing.

If you’re not overly prone to allergic reactions or breakouts, it’s nice to try new skin care products sometimes. You never know what will help your skin out, or what new brands might become your old favorites. For the price, Mizon’s Good Night White Sleeping Mask is definitely worth a try.

Product Review: Tatcha Dual-Cleanse System


If you’re just joining the blog, you’ll need to know that I have oily skin and really visible pores, especially on my nose. Most of my blogging about skin care involves my quest for something to effectively clean my skin and keep my shine to a minimum. You should also know that I’m pretty obsessed with the Tatcha skin care line. Vicki Tsai is an Asian-American businesswoman who makes absolutely amazing skin care products, and is also generally a wonderful person whom you should follow on Snapchat at ‘tatchabeauty.’

And yet, through my year+ of obsession with her products, and my previous reviews of them, I haven’t reviewed the foundation of her skin care line: the dual-cleanse system.

The first thing I noticed about this system compared to a Korean-style double-cleanse, is that Tatcha’s doesn’t require a toner afterward. The products are carefully pH-balanced, so that you can skip right to your essence and other treatments. These are expensive products, so the fact that you can literally remove a step in your skin routine helps offset that a little.

The first time I used the rice enzyme powder, I was in Hawaii last year, and I was immediately surprised by how great my nose pores looked after using it. Normally I have quite a lot of debris in my skin, no matter how religiously I wash and exfoliate, and since I just can’t stop picking at my skin (I’m trying, I’m trying), I’d end up trying to smoosh all the debris out of my pores semi-regularly, irritating my skin and sometimes causing a breakout in the process. Counterproductive, much?

Not so with this cleanser! It’s a powder that you add water to and work it into a foam. When you wash with it, those super-fine particles get right up in those nasty pores and clear them out. It also removes a very small layer of dead skin, without irritating the new skin underneath. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. My skin feels soft and renewed, and my pores have never looked cleaner.

You can use any oil cleanser you want with the rice powder cleanser, but if you use two products that are designed to work with each other, you’re likely to get better results, and that goes for any skin care line. Enter the Camellia Cleansing Oil. I only use oil cleanser at night, because of my skin type, but some people may want to use it in the mornings as well. It’s totally up to you. This cleanser is absolutely fantastic at removing makeup. It just melts it all off – waterproof, setting spray, sunscreen, all of it just dissolves when it meets this oil cleanser. Then, by virtue of some kind of magic Tatcha uses, the oil completely emulsifies in water and rinses off your skin. No residue, no heavy feeling, nothing – it’s just gone! That almost never happens with me and oil cleansers, so I was duly impressed. Following up with the rice enzyme powder leaves my skin feeling completely clean and smooth, and completely balanced, without any lingering oil or dry tightness hanging about.

To recap, this system works the same way as your K-beauty dual cleanse, with slight modifications:

  • Dry hands/Dry face, massage the oil cleanser on
  • Rinse
  • Wet hands/Wet face, work rice enzyme powder into a foam, massage onto skin
  • Rinse again, pat dry
  • No toner needed, skip straight to your essence, treatment, and moisturizer steps

I’ve seen such good results with this line, you guys. It’s worth every penny.

Speaking of pennies, if you’ve clicked my links you’ll have already found out that Tatcha products are definitely more expensive than a lot of what I review on here. Much as I’d like to disagree with the price, I really can’t argue too strenuously, for a couple of reasons: 1) It works SO WELL, and 2) You get a LOT of product in one order. I got my current round of Tatcha double-cleanse about a month ago, and I’ve hardly made a dent in it. I’m still trying to finish up an in-use bottle of oil cleanser I got months ago – I thought I was running out, but it just keeps going. The thing about the high-quality products is that you use less of it, which means the same amount tends to last longer.

Now, don’t think I’m trying to say that all expensive products are better than all cheap ones – you KNOW my favorite eye cream costs $20. I’ve also tried samples of high-end products, only to get so-so results. It depends on the product and how it interacts with your skin. But as far as ‘expensive but worth it’ products go, this double-cleanse is absolutely worth the dollars. I’d say the full-sized versions could last me a good 4-ish months, not even lying, especially since I only use the oil cleanser at night.

If you’re still a little spooked by the cost, I get it – it is a lot of money up front. The way I got into it was by getting a travel-sized rice cleanser and taking it on a trial run (yep, Sephora carries it too). Hell, even that travel size lasted me two or three months. It’s legit.

I know it sounds like I’m getting paid by Vicki to hawk her wares, but I assure you that if I were getting paid to promote Tatcha, I’d just be moving to California to work with her directly, and my blog would probably look a lot less like a free WordPress account. This isn’t an ad, it’s literally just my favorite skin care line and the best cleanser I’ve ever used. I hope you try it out and are as amazed as I am.