Product Review: Elizavecca Hell Pore Control Serum

If there was a time before I had large, noticeable pores, I don’t remember it. At this point I’ve probably spent most of my life trying to shrink the pores on my nose, cheeks, and chin, or at least make them less painfully obvious.

For the most part, the size of your pores is genetic, like the size of any other body part. So for those of us with big pores, our best option is to tighten up the skin around said pores, and to keep those pores as clean as possible, so that debris and oil buildup doesn’t make them even more noticeable. To that end, I am once again thankful to K-Beauty for providing me with products that do the things I thought were impossible.

Elizavecca Hell Pore Control serum comes in an adorable glass bottle with a dropper, so you can feel like a witch or a mad scientist while you treat your face. It’s even got a little piggy stirring a cauldron on the bottle. It’s unscented, or at least so faintly-scented I couldn’t tell you what it actually smells like. I use it at night after my cleansing step and before moisturizing. It’s not a toner, so if you need to use a toner, you should cleanse, tone, put on this serum, then moisturize. If you’re doing a mask, sheet or otherwise, you’d cleanse/tone/mask/serum/moisturize.

What I love about this serum is how quickly and completely it absorbs. As oily as my skin is, I don’t need anything leaving residue behind – I need it to soak in and be gone. This serum delivers that. Its focus is on tightening skin and reducing pore size, so it’s not moisturizing at ALL. If it happens to dry you out, you may want to switch to a thicker moisturizer for nighttime while you finish the serum. For me, it didn’t have any effect as far as drying out my skin, but remember that mine is very oily and congested to start with. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Not only does this serum appear to keep my pores nice and clear and subtle, but it also tackles quite a bit of the redness I have on my cheeks and chin. When I stop using it for a while, I’ll notice my redness start to creep back up, starting at my chin and moving up from there. It’s a big bottle, and you only need a few drops for your whole face, so I’ve stopped and started with this a few times and had good results every time I’ve restarted.

If you have big pore problems, this is absolutely a product to try. It’s not too expensive, it lasts for ages, and it started giving me results after less than a week of once-a-day use. Also, because we all know this is a big reason I use K-Beauty – it’s got an adorable name and a drawing of an adorable animal on the bottle. Better pores and cute packaging – can we go wrong here? It’s like this serum was made for my skin.

Have you tried it before, or anything else by Elizavecca? Let me know in comments how you liked it!

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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.

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.

Goo Hoarding and How to Stop

 

We’ve all been there, right? You open your bathroom cabinet or drawer, and you think to yourself, “How did I acquire this much goo???” Moisturizers, serums, hair product, perfumes, it all just piles up as you find a thing here or there and add it to the cabinet.

Since I’m getting ready to move, it’s time for me to look at the parts of my life that tend to get cluttered. For me, that’s clothing and skin care products. I’m doing well on the clothing at the moment, because I put a moratorium on buying new seasonal clothes since we’re moving somewhere with a different climate. The only things I’ve added to the closet are wardrobe basics, and when I add something new, I put something old in the donation pile.

But I hadn’t really looked at my skin care in a bit, so I figured it was a good time to address that. There’s no point in shipping things I don’t need, and risking them leaking or breaking in transit.

Here are my favorite tips for keeping your goo-cabinet from getting out of hand.

  1. Use bins. They’re a life-saver. Whether it’s shoe boxes, cute bins you bought, or the smaller boxes from a Lush shipment, use some sort of containers to compartmentalize your things and help keep you in check. If everything is supposed to be in a container, then you know it’s time to throw things out when it doesn’t all fit in said container. The other great thing about using these is that I know exactly where my products are. One box is only hair and bath stuff, one box is only skin care, one box is only essential oils, etc. When I need to go rummaging, I pull down the appropriate box, find what I need, then put it all back in the box and re-shelve it. Even if it’s just tossed in there with no order to it, my products *look* organized when I look at the shelf, because they’re contained in boxes. Personally, I like to reuse small boxes that I get packages mailed in, so that I’m staying organized and creating less waste.
  2. Go through your goo periodically. A quarterly goo-purging is probably all you need. Set a reminder on your phone, or put a sticky note on your bathroom cabinet with the date on it. When it’s time, pull ALL your stuff out onto the counter, take it all out of the boxes, and survey your collection. Do you love and use every single one of these products? Chuck anything that you were underwhelmed with, that’s mostly empty and you’re not using anymore, or that you bought on a whim because it looked cool but realized you’re never going to use it. If you bought a new toner that’s the best thing ever, you can get rid of your old, less-awesome toners. When are you going to use the mediocre ones in place of your new fave? Is anything in that box broken or leaking? Toss it; you don’t need puddles of dried stuff all over your cabinet. If you have a friend who’s into skin care, see if they want to give those ‘good but not for me’ products a test run instead of throwing them out. It can be your good deed for the day.
  3. Try to use up a product before replacing. This is hard to do, but it will save you money and space. If you’ve got a cleanser that works well for you, use it up completely before trying a new cleanser. Sometimes, I’ll get overwhelmed with products and I’ll have to stop buying things until I can use up some of what I have. I hate to waste product, especially if it works well, so to regain control of my cabinet, I take buying breaks where I just use what I have for as long as I can. Sometimes it’ll take me several months to use things up to the point of needing a replacement. That’s several months of not spending money on new products, and several months of slowly freeing up space in my bathroom. The products you’re already using must be working – if they made you break out, you wouldn’t be using them – so keep using them until you get the full value of what you bought. Don’t throw good money away if you don’t have to.
  4. Shop with space in mind. If you’re trying out a product for the first time, especially if it’s an expensive one, get a travel size or sample first. It will take up less room in your cabinet, and if you hate it, you can throw it away without feeling like you wasted a ton of money on a full-sized product that turned out to be a bad fit. Probably 90% of my Sephora purchases come from the little stands of travel products, because unless I know for a fact that a given product is going to work great on my skin, I don’t want to pay full price for it. That’s a big gamble; some oil cleansers can cost $50 or so. I don’t want to realize that was a mistake.
  5. Take advantage of return policies. One of the many good things about Sephora is their return policy. You can open up and use a product, and if it doesn’t work for you or makes you break out, you can return it. Their policy says products have to be ‘new or gently used.’ So don’t try to return something you used half of, but if you tried it once and hated it, and you still have your receipt, you can take it back and get a refund. Check the return policies of other places you shop as well; don’t keep products sitting around that you don’t like.
  6. Know your skin type. Buying products that are made for skin like yours will save you a ton of grief and money. If you don’t know your skin type, you’re basically just guessing every time you buy a new product, and hoping it will work. That’s got to get expensive after a while, not to mention leaving you with a cabinet full of failed goo purchases. I just learned a great way to find your skin type: get a piece of blotting paper, and pat your face with it in the middle of the day, well after you’ve washed your face. If the paper comes away soaked with oil and almost completely translucent, you have oily skin. If you have a few translucent spots but not enough to cover the blotting paper, your skin is combination. And if the paper comes away from your face like you hardly did anything to the paper at all, then your skin is dry. How easy is that? You can also ask your local skin care store rep to help you suss out your skin type before you start spending money; they know their stuff and are usually happy to help.

As Alton Brown says, organization will set you free. Nobody wants to open their cabinets in the morning and deal with a crapalanche of old products – we need our mornings to be easy, because sleep is good and digging through a packed cabinet just starts our day off on a frustrating note. When your products are easy to find, appropriate for your skin, and have intact packaging, your morning routine will be infinitely easier to pull off, so that you can leave the house looking and feeling fab.