Product Review: Mizon Water Volume Aqua Gel Cream


Oh Mizon. You were my first K-Beauty love, and yet you still surprise me with great products that aren’t too expensive.

With the shift to hotter weather coming up, I’m exploring lighter moisturizer options, since the May Coop moisturizer I used at night through the winter is really thick and will probably cause me to break out or look greasy during the hotter months. Combination skin is a beast, but hey, it means I get to try more products! Silver lining?

Per the usual, I got this (full-sized!) Aqua Gel Cream in my PinkSeoul box. This is the first box I got that’s geared toward combination skin as opposed to oily – it turns out that better skin care has actually made my skin less congested and oil-producing, which makes me quite happy. PinkSeoul knows it’s stuff; they sent me several well-balanced products that I’m looking forward to reviewing for you guys.

This ‘cream’ almost looks like a gel. It’s nearly translucent and kind of viscous; it’s definitely not runny or thin. I’ve used it several times as a lighter nighttime moisturizer, so it’s the last step of my pre-bed routine. It’s also great if I take a shower right after the gym and still have things to do, so that I’m not putting on a heavy sleep pack several hours before bed.

If your skin is very oily, I can see this working as a nightly sleep pack and doing a great job at it. It absorbs well and provides good moisture, but it’s not heavy at all, so it’s unlikely to contribute to a breakout. For me, since I do have that combination skin thing happening, and because I’m using a lot of pore-tightening products right now, I have to pay attention to how my skin feels on a given night and moisturize appropriately. Sometimes, this is perfect, and other times I need something heavier, especially if I’ve gotten a little sun or been out in that west Texas wind. Also, if I do a really rich sheet mask at night, this is a great moisturizer for me, because the sheet mask has already provided tons of moisture, and doubling up with a heavy sleep pack would probably be too much for my face.

So you’ve got options on how to apply this, although if your skin is solidly on the dry side, this might not be enough even in summer – but if you used it after essence and before sunscreen as a light-but-additional moisture layer, it could work well for you. Somebody with dry skin give that a try and get back to me.

One thing to note about the Aqua Gel Cream is that it does have a very perfumey scent. I’m not sensitive to fragrance, but when I put it on my first thought was, ‘Whoa, that’s some perfume.’ It doesn’t smell *bad*, mind – I actually like it – but if you’re particularly averse to stronger scents in your beauty products, it’s something to be aware of. The scent lingers for an hour or two before dissipating.

As always, Mizon delivers a great product with this moisturizer. I think I’ve found a key player in my summer skin routine.

In Defense of Ritual

Hey Fledglings. Let’s talk about ‘busy,’ and why it’s not doing us any favors.

We all try to pretend that we can go full-throttle through life, reacting to whatever gets flung at us, and that this tactic is both sustainable and a path to real happiness. But how many of us are happy, and how many of us are just stressed out? Sure, we feel important and needed when we schedule every second of our day, but what’s all that ‘busy’ getting us, other than a stress headache?

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, I’m busy *now*, but eventually things are going to calm down. You know, when I’m more successful/make more money/replace my car/finish school/etc.”

Is that true, though? Think really hard about this. Is your compulsively-busy life in pursuit of a specific goal, after which you have a concrete plan to change your habits? I’m betting that, like so many before you, you’re more likely to be using your busy life as an excuse to not deal with some things. I know I’ve pretended to be ‘too important/needed/busy’ to face down my negative thoughts, bad relationships, or horrible finances before. Take my advice; that’s not a sustainable plan. Life catches up, whether you want it to or not.

If we have goals in life, doing everything we could ever do ever, is not the way to reach them – it’s a good way to wind up on blood pressure medication, but it is not a good way to reach your goals. To achieve the things we want to achieve in life, the main thing we need is FOCUS. Remember how we talked about SMART goals a while back? Well, taking on All The Things, whether or not they serve our goals, just because we want to feel needed, does not fall in line with the theory behind SMART goals.

So what’s a lady to do? How can we better achieve our life goals, actually feel happy right NOW, and become comfortable with looking at ourselves and our own thoughts?

This is where ritual comes in. I’m not talking about religion, although if that’s your thing, by all means make it happen. I’m talking about the kind of ritual we can build into our daily lives, the kind that gives us time to focus on our own thoughts and goals and how we can improve them. If you’re constantly on the run from one thing to the next thing, you don’t have time to do that. So, are you reaching your goals? How would you know? You haven’t sat down in a month and a half; where are you even at on your way to those goals?

This is why I love Korean skincare. Yeah, it makes my face look and feel amazing, but it also comprises about twenty minutes of each day where I do nothing but take care of myself. During that time, I can let my mind wander. I can ponder things that are stressing me out, or things I’d like to change. I can think about my goals and if I’m doing enough to reach them. Taking time to just think is absolutely crucial to being successful in life – if you slow down for a bit, you can choose your path more carefully, and the ritual of a full skincare routine forces you to slow down.

Embrace your thoughts, even the negative ones – they’re there for a reason. If something is not right in your world, you have an opportunity to change it, but only if you know what’s going on. Paying attention to how you think and feel for a few minutes each day, maybe while you moisturize, is a good way to acknowledge that things could be better for you, and then take steps toward making things better.

I try to relax in the bathtub for a while at least once a week. It’s where I can let my mind wander for a bit, relax my sore muscles, and just be silent. Yet again, this ritual is great for me feeling grounded and able to take on the rest of the week. I usually put on a sheet mask while I’m at it, because I might as well do it up right! Heck, just making time to blog today is helping me put my own goals into perspective. I need to do that sometimes, and you do too. So let’s build a little more ritual into our lives, so that we can use that time to focus ourselves and be more successful during the rest of the day.

Here are some suggestions for time you can take to be quiet and focus:

  • Morning and evening skin routine (get that sheet mask going, you literally can’t do anything for fifteen minutes)
  • Religious services, if that’s your jam
  • Yoga/meditation class
  • Working out
  • Bath or shower time
  • A meditation app, like Headspace

No, that last bit isn’t getting me any money; I just downloaded the app about a month ago, and it’s kind of changed my life. It’s a series of ten-minute mindfulness meditations to help you focus and be aware of yourself and your surroundings. It’s fantastic.

Ordering your day so that you can include a ritual or two can open up so many possibilities. It doesn’t have to take a ton of time – the things I suggested take between ten minutes and one hour – but adding in some you-time will help you reach your goals more directly. If you feel like you’re flailing around trying to reach your goals, or even trying to figure out what those goals are, try and put some more rituals into your daily routine. Get used to moving from one thing to the next as you get ready for bed, or when you come home at the end of the day. See how it feels to relax your mind a little and just be with your thoughts.

I’ve gotten some good results from this. I bet you will too.

Product Review: Studio 35 Beauty Deep Cleansing Mask


This review is a little different from my usual ones, because this isn’t a K-Beauty find – I got this mask at a drug store in town. I was hanging with my bestie, and we wanted to get our spa on, so we picked up a bunch of masks on their BOGO sale.

This review is also a little different…because I didn’t like this product. I’ll get into that; let’s get started with the review.

The Deep Cleansing Mask is aimed at purifying your skin and helping draw impurities out of your pores. I really needed this the other day, because I’m doing this stupid super awesome and healthy fitness challenge this month, and my skin is Freaking. Out. All the sweating I’m doing is giving me horrible, red breakouts all over the place. They’re not cystic acne breakouts, they’re just really red and obvious and need to go away, like now.

The main ingredient in this mask is kaolin clay, which I’ve heard is the new hotness for purifying skin – I even saw a commercial for some clay-based shampoo for managing oily roots, and I’m kinda tempted to give it a try after my I Love Juicy runs out. So I was pumped to try this mask, and I was really hoping to see some results in the form of less acne on my poor, sweaty face.

This mask is bright, robin’s-egg blue when you squeeze it out of the packet. I applied it evenly all over my face, and it felt a lot like other clay masks I’ve worn before, in that I could feel it drying and kind of tightening my skin as it sat. It rinsed off really easily, which is a great quality in a face mask for me. I used a washrag with warm water on it to loosen it up, then I used my hands to rinse the rest off.

Now, I said I didn’t like it, and this isn’t because it didn’t work well or was difficult to use – it really did soothe my breakouts.

No, this stuff smells TERRIBLE.

Oh man, it smelled so bad. Like bathroom cleaner. It literally smelled like tub and tile cleaner. I’m pretty stalwart in the face of bad smells (thanks, former health care job!), so I powered through it for the fifteen minutes of recommended set time, but MAAAAANNNNN. It was a chore. My skin even smelled a little bit after I’d rinsed it off and finished my nighttime skin routine. After my morning routine, the smell was completely gone, so it won’t make you smell forever, but during the time it smells, you will definitely notice it.

Would I use this product again? Yanno…probably not. I know for a fact there are other masks out there that soothe my breakouts and don’t smell awful. It was effective, and it’s a cheap mask (especially if you’re getting that BOGO deal), but it was just not worth smelling all night.

Moral of the story: drug store skincare can absolutely be great! But sometimes you get a miss, and for me, this was a miss. It did help my skin, and it was affordable, but it just didn’t smell good. I may try some of their other masks later and see how they work/smell, for the sake of comparison. Never let it be said that skincare is not an adventure.

Product Review: Skinfood Royal Honey Emulsion


As you can see from the photo, this emulsion came to me in the form of a sample I got in my latest PinkSeoul box. I’ve changed my order from ‘pore care’ to ‘having fun with K-beauty products,’ because I’m awash with gorgeous pore care products and would like to change it up a little. Hopefully they’ll keep sending me great stuff to review for you guys!

This emulsion from Skinfood is excellent. I use it as a serum, and since there’s so little of it, I mainly put it on my chin and neck, with a little to spare for the rest of my T-zone. It doesn’t smell very strong at all, and it soaks in well, so no extra oil (always a bonus for me).

The first time I used the emulsion, I got a big surprise the next morning: the zits I’d gone to bed with had literally transformed overnight from ‘under the skin and inflamed’ to ‘open and healing!’ Wow! It’s like this serum hit fast-forward on my hormonal breakout. I kept using it with my regular skin routine, and it’s done a great job getting any new acne to open up and clear away. I think it’s the honey component that’s so great, as honey has been used for centuries to treat infections and soothe skin due to it having some antibacterial properties. There are even recipes out there for at-home face masks that include honey.

The package says to use the emulsion during the moisturizing step of your routine, which, by all means do that thing if it works better for you. I’m still using my May Coop Raw Moisturizer, though it’s almost time to switch to a lighter one for spring and summer. For me, the Royal Honey emulsion works great as a serum.

I’d probably buy this again, given the chance. I’m definitely happy with how it helped my acne, and with how it’s tightened up my face. If you’re looking to soothe and heal your skin from a nasty breakout, this is well worth looking into.

Product Review: Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash


Okay, so this one could alternatively be titled, ‘How the Fashion Bird Doesn’t Follow Instructions.’ But I got there eventually, and that’s what counts, right? Join me on this journey.

If you’ve followed the blog for a bit, you’ll know that my skin is oily, acne-prone, and in need of just all the exfoliation. So when I found out about enzyme powder and rice powder cleaners, I thought ‘Great! I can exfoliate SO MUCH now.’

I got the Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash in my previous PinkSeoul box, and I was super pumped. Not only is this some extra exfoliation, but it’s also a much-cheaper enzyme powder cleanser than the Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder that I absolutely love, and absolutely can’t afford right now. Vickie, if you’re listening, you know I’d buy only your products on the regular if I could, but as it stands, I buy what I can and shill for you on all my social media accounts instead. You seem really nice on Snapchat, so I think you’re okay with this.

I do have to thank Vickie, though, for showing me how to properly use the Tosowoong powder, after weeks of getting it wrong. I’d been using it as a scrub, just putting the powder on my wet face and rubbing until it lathered up, and I was really only getting mediocre results that way (probably because I was scratching the crap out of my face twice a day). Then I watched Tatcha’s Snapchat story one day, where Vickie explained that no, Bird, enzyme powders are not supposed to be a scrub. You’re supposed to pour a little powder into your hands, put some water on the powder, then rub it between your hands to dissolve the powder into a foam. Only then do you put it on your face and start washing.

‘Well,’ I thought. ‘That explains the middling results of this scrub.’ I started using my cleanser like Vickie recommended for hers, and lo and behold! This stuff is amazing, when you use it properly. My skin feels so soft right now, and just smooth and luminous all around. My nose-blackheads are almost invisible, which is just huge for me, and some of the acne cysts I’ve been battling along my jawline are finally starting to clear up properly.

Weird how things work better when you use them as intended.

Now that I’ve used the Tosowoong powder properly for a bit, I can safely say that this is a great product, especially if you have oily, rough, or congested skin. The enzyme action helps clear away all those extra skin cells that keep hanging around, and the foaming action feels really pleasant. It rinses off very cleanly, so there’s no residue or anything left behind, even if you’re double-cleansing or washing off makeup. There’s also not a strong smell to it, so I’d definitely recommend this to any Fledglings who are sensitive to the more perfumey skin products. At $11 on Peach and Lily, I doubt you’ll find a better deal on a cleanser – I’ve been using mine for almost two months now and haven’t used it up.

Of course, as an avid traveler, one of my favorite parts about this powder is how well it travels. No melting, no leaking, no separating – it’s POWDER. I could put this in my checked bag on a plane flight and save some room in my carry-on, as long as I taped the flip-top lid closed or put it in a baggie.

I’m going to get some more product reviews to you in the coming weeks, so keep watching the blog, and feel free to send me suggestions for new products to review on Twitter!

Natural Deodorant: Making the Switch

In the last blog, I reviewed Lavanila’s natural deodorant, and how it’s an overall good product. This week, I’m going to give you some hints if you want to switch to a gentler, less-processed brand of deodorant. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but if it’s a move you want to make, I’m here to ease the transition. Like I said a couple weeks ago, you’ll still get good results once you’ve adjusted to it.

If you’ve never switched from big-box to natural deodorant before, here are some things you should know before you make the leap.

  1. There’s an adjustment period for your body. Big-box deodorant has a bigger effect on your skin than you’d think – your body gets used to you using it all the time, so when you first stop using it, you’ll probably feel a tiny bit sweaty and/or smelly for a week or two while your skin adjusts to not being coated with metallic powder (Wikipedia says there’s no link between deodorant and health problems, as does the FDA, so going natural is an entirely aesthetic decision, but yeah, metallic powder). The excessive sweating calms down after that time, because your body has adjusted to life without the chemical stuff. You might just need to wash more often during that adjustment time.
  2. There’s an adjustment period for your mind too. The thing about chemical deodorant is that it makes your sweat smell like whatever insane fragrance they’re running that production cycle, so you kind of forget how humans are supposed to smell. When you start smelling like a human again, i.e. no longer sweating perfume, it’s a little unnerving. For a bit there, I couldn’t shake the idea that I smelled and everyone knew it. In Western society, that’s a pretty big problem. But I ran it by some close friends (because what are friends for?), and my mom has never been one to mince words if I smelled weird because her nose is as sensitive as mine, and it turns out it was all in my head. No, I didn’t smell like Coconut Moonbeam, but I didn’t ‘stink’ either. What a relief.
  3. You can’t reapply. You know the drill: you didn’t shower last night, you need to get out the door, so you put on another layer of deodorant and some body spray and it’s fine until you can shower after work, right? Not so with the natural stuff. It doesn’t have as many, or the same kind of, preservatives as the chemical stuff, so it soaks into your skin and wears off by the end of the day. If you’re an every-other-day shower-er, you might find yourself needing to just wash your pits with a washrag on your off days, so that you can reapply the deodorant to freshly-cleaned skin. It doesn’t fail to work entirely if you skip this step, but it definitely doesn’t work as well as if you’d washed up.
  4. There are two kinds of sweat. I knew this academically from a couple of Anatomy and Physiology classes I took in college, but it was a different story when I smelled the effects on myself, and it was a little surprising at first. Regular, daily sweat that’s there to regulate your body temperature doesn’t really smell all that much – natural deodorant handles this kind of sweat easily, even if it’s from working out. But then there’s stress sweat. Yikes. Stress sweat has some other chemicals in it, because  you’re sweating due to a different biological process that I won’t bore you with, so if you nearly get rear-ended, or your boss starts yelling at you, you might just start sweating in such a way that your deodorant can’t keep up. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s entirely possible that you’re the only one who can tell, but it is surprising when it first happens, because again, you’re no longer sweating Coconut Moonbeam, you’re sweating regular sweat like humans do, so you kind of become more aware of what’s going on in your body. For me, that’s a good thing, but it might not be for you. It’s good to be informed.
  5. Oh yeah – you start sweating again. It’s damnear impossible to find a mainstream brand of deodorant in America that isn’t also an antiperspirant. For the record, deodorant = not smelly, antiperspirant = not sweating. That metallic powder I mentioned earlier actually clogs up your sweat glands, which is what keeps you from sweating. It’s one of the reasons I switched – personally, I think we’re supposed to sweat. Natural deodorant doesn’t have that antiperspirant factor at all, so you have to get used to sweating again, just not smelling rank when you do it. Like I said, the extra sweating calms down after a bit, but if it’s hot out, you’re just going to sweat. The upside of this, however, is that while the big-box deodorant can sometimes cake onto your shirt when you sweat and be hard to wash out or stain your clothes, the natural stuff doesn’t do that. My clothes get cleaner and last longer if I’m just sweating normal human-sweat and not ‘sweat mixed with god-knows-what and Coconut Moonbeam fragrance.’
  6. It helps if you shave. Look, I’m not against armpit hair on anyone of any gender. It’s hair, and it’s on you, so I don’t care. But this isn’t an aesthetic thing – natural deodorant actually works better if it’s applied to hairless skin. It gets to soak into your skin better without hair getting in the way. Since it’s a gentler product, you kinda have to give it a leg-up by making sure it has the best chance to come into contact with your actual skin, which is the part that’s sweating. Also, more hair = more body odor. Why fight an uphill battle?

Hopefully this will arm you (see what I did there?) with some knowledge before you up your natural-skincare game. You may need to try a few brands before you find one that works, but once you do, I hope you enjoy the results. Happy hunting!

Product Review: Lavanila Natural Deodorant

 


There are several reasons a person might want to switch to a natural deodorant – maybe their skin is sensitive to the big-box brands, or they want to try a smaller brand to support a different kind of company, or they don’t like smelling like Cucumber Moonbeam all day. Wearing the natural stuff does require a little more work than the big-box deodorant, but if you’re thinking about making the switch for whatever reason, I have some tips for you, as well as a handy product review. You can get good results with the more natural products, with a few adjustments to your routine.

I got a hot tip from a Buzzfeed article a couple months ago, so I decided to try a new kind of deodorant. I’ve mentioned before that I once made my own deodorant using essential oils, but the thing about the homemade stuff is that it doesn’t travel well. The recipe I used, while effective, is made with coconut oil, which is only solid at room temperature. Leave it in your car for too long, and it’ll turn to liquid and you’ll have to wait for it to solidify again before you can use it, or risk making a huge mess. Gods forbid the container you put it in doesn’t seal well.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to use the terms ‘big-box deodorant’ and ‘natural deodorant.’ The first will describe your mainstream stick or gel antiperspirant/deodorant combos that we all see on the aisles at the pharmacy. The latter will describe a botanical-based deodorant that still goes under the arms to make the user smell better, but is an alternative brand that might be less widely-available than the Big Box kind and is formulated differently. Are we good? Okay.

I’d done a round or two with some other store-bought natural deodorant brands before, but I didn’t like them for one reason or another. The main reason was that I smelled nasty when I used them, which kinda defeats the purpose of buying deodorant in the first place. They were also weirdly sticky when I applied them, which was off-putting. So when the article suggested Lavanila natural deodorant and insisted that it works well AND smells good, I was willing to give it a try.

Generally, I steer clear of any kind of scent that makes me smell like dessert, cuz ew. So I wasn’t completely on board with the vanilla scents in this line, but I thought I’d roll the dice on the Fresh Vanilla Lemon scent and see what happened. Citrus is usually a winner for me, so I was hoping the citrus would come through stronger than the vanilla.

Lavanila is some good stuff. It doesn’t have an overpowering smell like so many big-box deodorants do, which is a big plus for me. I don’t like having a ton of competing smells on me all day. It mostly smells like baby powder, but the smell is so subtle you have to work to find it once it’s on. It also stays solid, and goes on with a kind of powdery finish, so it’s convenient to keep and to wear. Overall, it’s a good one, and I’d recommend it.

Come back in two weeks if you’re wondering what it’s like to switch from big-box deodorant to the natural stuff! I’ve got some tips to make it easier and more effective.